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Judge tosses civil rights groups’ suit against HUD over delaying Obama fair housing effort

Groups challenged HUD’s changes to Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule

A federal judge late last week dismissed a legal challenge to the Trump administration’s move to delay and change a controversial Obama-era fair housing rule.

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

Earlier this year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that it intended to delay the rule by one year. Since then, HUD took other steps to begin the “streamlining” of the AFFH rule.

After the original announcement of the delay, three civil rights groups sued HUD and Secretary Ben Carson over the move.

The lawsuit, filed by the National Fair Housing AllianceTexas Appleseed, and Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, asked a federal court to order HUD to reinstate the federal requirement that local and state governments address segregated housing patterns in order to receive federal funding. 

But that won’t be happening.

Late last week, Chief Justice Beryl Howell of the District Court for the District of Columbia threw out the lawsuit, stating that the groups did not prove they were harmed by HUD’s actions.

From the Washington Post’s coverage of the story:

Howell, an Obama appointee, disagreed with the plaintiffs’ allegations that Carson had dismantled the 2015 rule in May when he withdrew a computer assessment tool that allowed the agency to oversee whether communities complied with the law.

“Many aspects of the [Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing] Rule remain active,” Howell wrote in her 77-page opinion. “HUD’s withdrawal of the tool does not ‘perceptibly impair’ the plaintiffs’ abilities to carry out their missions.”

In a statement, the National Fair Housing Alliance said that the groups are “deeply disappointed” by the judge’s decision and worry about the impact of the Trump administration’s changes to the AFFH rule.

“Since the law was passed 50 years ago, HUD has not had an effective means for ensuring compliance with the Fair Housing Act. This ruling means a failed system will continue,” the National Fair Housing Alliance said in a statement.

“We are deeply concerned particularly since the court’s opinion acknowledges that the current system is flawed. The court’s ruling against a preliminary injunction and dismissing the case means that jurisdictions can continue to get away with engaging in housing discrimination or receiving federal funds in the absence of eliminating barriers to fair housing,” the NFHA continued.

“The evidence is clear that the court’s action will lead to continued fair housing litigation against jurisdictions and housing authorities which is an extremely costly way to achieve the goals of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing mandate,” the NFHA added.

The NFHA also called the judge’s decision a “significant setback” in civil rights enforcement.

“The process currently in place is the same process that allowed municipalities to deny water services to communities of color and still receive federal funds,” the NFHA said. “It is the same system that allows communities to construct inferior and damaging drainage services in predominately African-American and Latino neighborhoods and still receive federal funds. It is a process that we cannot let stand.”

The groups say that they are now “evaluating our options on how best to proceed” in their fight to reinstate the AFFH rule.

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