A Year Later, Feds Inch Forward on Fair Housing
by Nikole Hannah-Jones ProPublica, Nov. 22, 2013, 11:43 a.m.by Jeff Larson and Nikole Hannah-Jones, ProPublica, Dec. 20
Tonight’s episode of “This American Life” will feature a story based on ProPublica’s yearlong investigation “Living Apart: How the Government Betrayed a Landmark Civil Rights Law.”
Called “House Rules,” the TAL segment will examine the ways zip code determines the destiny of many Americans. The show will feature some of the actors who go undercover to test the market for hidden housing discrimination, a highly effective tool seldom used by the government.
Our reporting chronicled the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s repeated failures in enforcing the 1968 Fair Housing Act. This landmark legislation not only barred discrimination in housing sales and rentals 2013 it also required communities to “affirmatively further” residential integration.
Since we published our first stories late last year, there have been several significant developments on matters we reported. Here’s what’s happened.
HUD Proposes Regulation
In July, HUD issued a proposed regulation that for the first time clearly defined the steps local and state governments that receive HUD funding must take to examine housing segregation based on race and show they are in line with the Fair Housing Act. The effort to define such rules began under the Clinton Administration, but stalled because of objections from cities and counties. President Obama had promised the regulation would be issued by the end of 2010, but conflicts within HUD and pressure from powerful outside groups kept it bottled up for years.
The proposal would create a new planning process under which HUD grantees must use data provided by the federal government on segregation, racially concentrated areas of poverty, access to education, employment, transportation and environmental health to set housing and development priorities.
Advocacy groups such as the National Fair Housing Alliance and the Poverty & Race Research Action Council have praised the regulation. Others, including The Weekly Standard, have accused HUD of social engineering.
The public comment period on the proposal ended Sept. 17. The final regulation has not yet been issued.
Westchester County Loses Grant Dollars
In August, HUD took the unprecedented step of stripping $7.4 million in community development block grants from Westchester County, N.Y., the tony New York City suburb that settled a landmark fair housing lawsuit in 2009.