By: Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service
RALEIGH, N.C. – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is accepting public comments on its proposal to change a rule related to fair housing.
The change, which redefines a policy known as “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing,” would remove certain requirements put in place in 2015 that housing authorities and other recipients of HUD money must take proactive steps to identify and eliminate barriers to fair housing.
Jack Holtzman, senior attorney at the North Carolina Justice Center, said he doesn’t think the change is needed, adding that the current regulations strengthen enforcement of the Fair Housing Act.
“So this new proposed rule just completely shifts the focus away from any requirement to identify and address those barriers to fair housing, to just the issue of affordable housing,” he said.
The deadline for submitting public comments on the proposed changes is March 16. HUD has said the rule changes would make it easier to evaluate fair-housing efforts.
Holtzman said he is wary that the proposed change potentially could be used as a loophole to sidetrack some regulations.
“Even trying to push deregulation,” he said. “Are there any local regulations dealing with housing that should be removed to supposedly ‘promote’ affordable housing?”
He said the emphasis on affordable housing and disregard for addressing historic patterns of segregation and discrimination could undermine state and local efforts to shrink racial disparities in housing.
“HUD under this administration has, in some ways, attempted to modify and reverse regulations under the Obama administration that they saw as excessive,” he said.
The proposed change also would eliminate community participation and engagement requirements for recipients of HUD money that supporters say give residents opportunities to voice concerns.