Every year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) assigns more than $3 billion in subsidies to local and state governments aimed at eliminating housing discrimination. The Obama Administration recently set up a new regulation to better fulfill this mission, which is currently facing opposition from a handful of Republican senators whose goal is to revoke it.
The five-decade Fair Housing Act ‒ which gave HUD the responsibility to reduce obstacles to home ownership access and forbidding discrimination for reasons of race, sex and other characteristics ‒ was established in 1968. It bestowed the agency with the task of promoting affordable housing and equal opportunity by offering subsidies contingent on these obligations.
The results have been mixed. In 2010, a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) pointed out the lack of clarity, standards and transparency in the information that HUD has offered to communities. This originated the new regulation establishing a comprehensive system that contains clear demands, the disclosure of federal information ‒ such as Census records ‒ to help in local decision-making and to encourage collaboration, and community engagement.
The importance and urgency of HUD’s new mission were confirmed when, last year, the Supreme Court ruled against segregating minorities in poor neighborhoods where, for instance, bad schools are located, at the expense of so-called high-opportunity neighborhoods. The legal case accused the city of Dallas of using tax credits only in minority areas and never in sectors where Anglo residents lived.
Now, the Senate wants to eliminate these rules by taking away the assigned HUD funds citing that it represents an intrusion of the federal government, as Republican Senator Mike Lee has put it. In reality, his intention is to have those funds granted to states unconditionally. The problem is that, in many areas of Dallas, discrimination was alive and well one year ago as much as it was in the 60s.
The Supreme Court’s decision confirms that the intervention of the federal government continues to be necessary to protect the rights of minorities. Senator Lee’s proposal to amend the law is an unacceptable regression to the days when racism and discrimination were the norm.