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Carson says HUD will “reinterpret” Obama fair housing rule after Republicans ask for repeal

What will become of the Affirmatively Further Fair Housing rule?

Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said in an interview this week that HUD will look to “reinterpret” a controversial fair housing rule issued by the Obama administration in 2015.

The rule in question is the “final rule” on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, which requires that cities and towns that receive federal funding to examine their local housing patterns for racial bias and to design a plan to address any measurable bias.

The rule became a target of Republicans, including Carson himself.

In a well-publicized op-ed published in The Washington Times in 2015, Carson called the rule a “social-engineering scheme” and said that the rule and the Supreme Court ruling on disparate impact are “government-engineered attempts to legislate racial equality create consequences that often make matters worse.”

Now that Carson is in charge of the government department that enforces the rule, he apparently intends to see it utilized in a different way.

In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Carson said this week that HUD will “reinterpret” the rule and how it is used.

From the Washington Examiner:

“Do I believe in fair housing? Of course, I believe in fair housing,” Carson told the Washington Examiner in a Wednesday interview. But he said he doesn't believe in “extra manipulation and cost.”

“So we just have to reinterpret it, that’s all,” he said.

The Washington Times article said that Carson did not provide any detail how exactly the rule will be “reinterpreted,” but Carson’s statement comes just days after nearly 20 Congressional Republicans asked Carson to repeal the rule entirely.

Late last week, Sen. Michael Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, led a group of Republicans who sent a letter to Carson, asking the HUD secretary to rescind the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule.

“We stand with you in opposing any and all instances of discrimination, but this rule does not actually help in that effort,” the Republicans wrote in the letter. “Instead, it would extend reach of the federal government beyond its authority and could take away state and local governments’ ability to make local zoning decisions.”

Joining Lee and Gosar in signing the letter were Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama; Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas; Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota; John Barrasso, R-Wyoming; Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Steve Daines, R-Montana; Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming; James Lankford, R-Oklahoma; Rand Paul, R-Kentucky; James Risch, R-Idaho; Marco Rubio, R-Florida; John Thune, R-South Dakota; and Reps. Brian Babin, R-Texas; Andy Biggs, R-Arizona; Rod Blum, R-Iowa; Ken Buck, R-Colorado; Glenn Grothman, R-Wisconsin; and Tom Massie, R-Kentucky.

“As we have already witnessed, this rule disproportionally places a heavier burden on smaller communities who could be denied funds unless they make radical, sweeping changes to their well-established zoning laws that are compliant with the Fair Housing Act,” the Republicans continued.

“This rule simply represents a continuation of the previous administration’s radical pursuit of using disparate impact theory to punish communities that are not as demographically diverse as they would have wished,” they added.

“Moving forward, we respectfully ask that you use your authority to rescind the AFFH rule in its entirety,” the Republicans concluded. “It is critical that we pursue real, sensible reforms to reduce poverty and improve the opportunities available to lower-income citizens at the local level. We look forward to partnering with you to ensure justice and opportunity are preserved in every neighborhood across our great land.”

[Update 1: The source of Sec. Carson's recent interview is the Washington Examiner, not the Washington Times.]

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