NEW FEDERAL RULE TAKES AIM AT HOUSING DISCRIMINATION, TARGETS LOCAL ZONING

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East County News Service

July 21, 2015 (Washington D.C.) – Last week, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced  finalization of a new rule, “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, that requires communities to remove zoning laws and other barriers to integration in neighborhoods at all income levels, or lose federal HUD funds.

The goal is to assure that minorities have access to good schools and jobs as well as affordable housing. Communities that refuse to take steps to increase integration in wealthy neighborhoods could lose federal grant money and potentially face federal investigations for housing bias.

HUD Secretary Julian Castro stated, “A zip code should never determine a child’s future.”  Using zoning tools such as minimum lot size, restrictions on multi-family housing and numbers of bedrooms allowed are factors HUD contends have been used to segregate neighborhoods.  Studies have shown that children raised in impoverished communities have lower incomes as adults than those raised in more affluent areas which typically have better schools.

Discrimination has long been illegal under the Fair Housing Act, but definitions of what constitutes discriminatory housing practice have been criticized as vague and largely ineffective.

Under the new rule, HUD will provide communities with historical data they must use to analyze segregation patterns, areas where race and poverty are concentrated, and access to good schools, public transit and jobs. Communities will be required to submit these analyses to HUD, set goals for reducing segregation, and track the results.

The NAACP’s senior vice president for advocacy, Hillary Shelton, praised the move. "Rules like this help us eliminate the still-existing obstacles to full integration in our society," Shelton said, the Los Angeles Times reports.

But some conservatives in Congress are objecting to the rules, arguing that they usurp local control and could reduce property values in wealthy enclaves.   Congressman Paul Gosar, a Republican from Arizona,

told Fox News, “This overreaching new regulation is an attempt to extort communities into giving up control of local zoning decisions and reengineer the makeup of our neighborhoods.

The new rule follows the Supreme Court’s decision on Inclusive Communities in which the Court ruled, 5-4, that housing policies that have a disparate impact on minority populations are illegal, whether or not discrimination is present.