Civil rights organizations are suing Secretary Ben Carson and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) over his suspension of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule. This suit challenges the Trump Administration’s rollback of efforts to encourage localities to work toward meeting the 1968 Fair Housing Act’s statutory requirements. Although the act is 50 years old, communities still have a long way to go to achieve its goals of ensuring that people have access to the housing of their choice regardless of race, national origin, religion, presence of children, sex, or disability status.
This is the second suit against Secretary Carson for suspending the implementation of HUD policy. A suit settled earlier this year led HUD to reinstate the requirement that local public housing agencies in metro areas where vouchers are disproportionately concentrated in low-income neighborhoods align their voucher subsidies more closely to local rental costs. This policy, known as Small Area Fair Market Rents, makes more units in higher-opportunity areas available to voucher holders.
In formulating the AFFH rule, the Obama Administration recognized that HUD’s prior enforcement mechanism hadn’t ensured that localities use federal funds to take meaningful steps to address racial segregation and other fair housing problems that have long plagued their communities, as the Fair Housing Act requires. The rule requires localities to analyze data with local and regional partners to identify systemic barriers to fair housing and propose actionable solutions. If implemented effectively, the rule could make great strides toward helping more voucher holders with children move to better neighborhoods, increasing their chances of health and success over the long term.
The Trump Administration abruptly abandoned its implementation in January 2018, delaying it for four additional years. The lawsuit challenges Secretary Carson’s arbitrary decision to suspend the rule, which was adopted after years of public input — and nearly 50 years of federal inaction. Moving forward with the rule is vital to ensuring that all families have a real choice about where to live and that agencies receiving federal funds for housing assistance or community development dismantle policies that maintain isolation and segregation.