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HUD Ends Fair Housing Rule, NAR Says It's ‘Disappointed’

The change defines fair housing broadly, with HUD saying current standards are “unworkable and ultimately a waste of time for localities to comply.” NAR earlier asked HUD not move forward with the change, saying it “threatened to strip away the rule’s original civil rights purpose.”

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the termination of the Obama Administration’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation issued in 2015. HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in announcing the change that it proved to be complicated, costly and ineffective.

“After reviewing thousands of comments on the proposed changes to the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation, we found it to be unworkable and ultimately a waste of time for localities to comply with, too often resulting in funds being steered away from communities that need them most,” Carson said in a release, noting that “Washington has no business dictating what is best to meet your local community’s unique needs.”

However, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) announced its opposition to the rule change after it was proposed in January 2020, saying it threatened to strip away the rule’s original civil rights purpose, as mandated by the 1968 law.

“The National Association of Realtors is disappointed that HUD has taken this step, which significantly weakens the federal government’s commitment to the goals of the Fair Housing Act,” NAR President Vince Malta said in a statement released after HUD’s announcement.

“The viability of our 1.4 million members depends on the free, transparent and efficient transfer of property in this country, and NAR maintains that a strong, affirmative fair housing rule is vital to advancing our nation’s progress toward thriving and inclusive communities,” Malta said. “With the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on people of color reminding us of the costs of the failure to address barriers to housing opportunity, NAR remains committed to ensuring no American is unfairly denied this fundamental right in the future.”

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) generally supports the change. “Attempts to develop workable AFFH regulations … have been unsuccessful and local governments’ attempts at compliance did little to advance fair housing,” NAHB President Chuck Fowke said in a statement.”

President Donald Trump advocated for the change, and the suburbs have become a political talking point heading into the upcoming presidential election.

The new rule, called Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice, defines fair housing broadly as affordable, safe, decent, free of unlawful discrimination and accessible under civil rights laws. It defines “affirmatively furthering fair housing” to mean any action rationally related to any of those attributes, HUD says.

Much of the change rests on how local jurisdictions show that they’re affirmatively complying with fair housing laws. A statement from the National Council of State Housing Agencies (NCSHA) says it takes Fair Housing Act compliance back to where it was in 1994.

The change met stiff resistance among fair housing groups. Debby Goldberg, vice president of housing policy and special projects for the National Fair Housing Alliance, said jurisdictions have almost no oversight anymore, with a minimal burden of proof needed to show that they’re addressing racial disparities in housing.

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