A group of activist organizations has filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the Department of Housing and Urban Development for its decision to suspend a measure by the Obama Administration that allowed communities to address racial segregation.
While the country is distracted by the news of Russiagate and the presidential eccentricities, the Trump Administration moves under the table trying again to disarm the social measures of its predecessor.
Earlier this year, the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Ben Carson, announced that "cities and counties receiving federal funds won’t be required to analyze housing data and submit plans to HUD for addressing segregation until after 2020," The Associated Press reported.
The measure has been perceived as a new attempt to "perpetuate segregation" and maintain the strong differentiation of social strata in the country.
Known as the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, this regulation enacted in July 2015 by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development allowed cities and towns receiving federal money to examine their housing patterns and evaluate racial prejudice in an attempt to promote racial integration, particularly in cities like Chicago and Baltimore - where predominantly African-American neighborhoods exist.
At the time, much of the civil rights groups applauded the measure, while the conservatives, especially Carson, argued that it would be "social engineering."
HUD issued a statement in January saying it would "immediately stop reviewing plans that had been submitted but not yet accepted, and that jurisdictions won’t have to comply with the rule until after 2020," AP continues.
"What we heard convinced us that the Assessment of Fair Housing tool for local governments wasn’t working well," reads the statement. "In fact, more than a third of our early submitters failed to produce an acceptable assessment, not for lack of trying but because the tool designed to help them to succeed wasn’t helpful."
But for organizations like the National Fair Housing Alliance, the Texas Appleseed, and the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, Carson's decision is illegal since "the fact that submissions are failing to meet the requirements reaffirms, rather than calls into question, why HUD thought the rule was necessary."
According to the Washington Post, the lawsuit alleges that "Carson unlawfully suspended the 2015 rule by not providing advanced public notice or opportunity to comment," says the document to which the media had access.
Attorney Michael Allen said that Carson's action "tells every opponent of integration, every opponent of affordable housing and good neighborhoods, whether they’re individuals or elected officials or local governments, that nobody will put pressure on them at the HUD level for the foreseeable future", as AP continues.
"That means they’ll keep doing what they’re doing, which is perpetuating segregation," he stressed.
For its part, HUD has argued that "the process is too burdensome for communities and that too many HUD resources were being devoted to helping them revise their plans," the Post continues. "As a result, HUD would discontinue its review of plans and directed communities in the process of revising their plans not to submit them."
The HUD data shows that federal funds have not been rewarded in recent years with specific achievements in terms of avoiding segregation and improving community conditions, but the organizations in the lawsuit suggest that things be done through regular avenues and to try measures that wouldn’t include the suspension of the rule.
"Decades of experience have shown that, left to their own devices, local jurisdictions will simply pocket federal funds and do little to further fair housing objectives," the lawsuit said. "Judicial intervention is necessary to vindicate the rule of law and to bring a fair housing to communities that have been deprived of it for too long."