Biden’s HUD to make states, cities submit ‘equity plans’ to get federal housing money

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The Biden administration is moving forward with a new rule requiring state and local governments to submit “equity plans” to the Department of Housing and Urban Development if they want to continue receiving billions of dollars in federal housing funds.

The proposed requirement is designed to streamline fair housing analysis requirements enacted under the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule to expand the anti-segregation efforts of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. 

The Obama-era rule was later scrapped under President Trump, who argued that the mandate was part of a federal effort to “abolish the suburbs.”

President Biden pledged to reestablish the rule soon after taking office, as part of his call to fully enforce the Fair Housing Act.

“Fifty-five years after its passage and signing, we are still working to realize the Fair Housing Act’s promise to end the legacy and persistence of discrimination and inequities in our housing system,” Mr. Biden said Thursday. “This is an important step forward to ensure every community does its part to expand equity in housing and to fulfill our promise of a nation of opportunity and equity for all..”

Under the proposed rule, HUD program participants would be required to submit an “equity plan” every five years that analyzes fair housing issues, lists strategies to remedy those issues and describe efforts of “community engagement.”

Program participants would then be required to conduct annual progress evaluations that describe progress toward the goals laid out in the plan.

“This proposed rule is a major step towards fulfilling the law’s full promise and advancing our legal, ethical, and moral charge to provide equitable access to opportunity for all,” said HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge.

Attempts to enforce Fair Housing Act provisions aimed at reversing decades of housing discrimination have, for decades, stirred controversy.

The Obama-era rule enacted formal guidance for local governments to remain in compliance with the fair housing mandate by submitting fair housing assessments. The rule was criticized by some municipalities as too burdensome.

Ben Carson, who was HUD secretary in the Trump administration, criticized the 2015 rule as “government-engineered attempts to legislate racial equality.” He said it would “create consequences that often make matters worse.”

Mr. Carson postponed the implementation deadline for the rule in 2018 before Mr. Trump canceled the rule outright in 2020.

Mr. Biden partially restored the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule months after taking office but has held off on instituting compliance measures.

The rule was proposed in the Federal Register on Thursday. HUD is seeking public comment on the proposal before a final rule is published.

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