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Policy Summary:

On March 28, 2018, a New York Times investigation reported that Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), had ordered the Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Division at the federal agency to pause investigations into violations of federal fair housing laws. The next day two prominent Senate Democrats, Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein of California, and a number of U.S. Congressional Representatives sent a letter to Secretary Carson expressing their “deep concern” concerning a proposed change in the mission statement of HUD. An internal memo dated March 5, 2018 revealed that the proposed change would remove the phrase “free from discrimination” from the updated mission statement and instead describe HUD’s mission as “to ensure Americans have access to fair, affordable housing.” LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis:

These two incidents should raise red flags about the direction of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under Secretary Carson. The Trump Administration has repeatedly been accused of being hostile to civil rights. These two incidents do not help in trying to erase those accusations towards President Trump and members of his administration. First, the pausing of investigations into violations of federal fair housing laws creates an impression that racial discrimination incidents in housing are unimportant. Mr. Jereon Brown, a spokesman for HUD, stated that sixty per cent of their complaints are disability related and that the department was going to now focus on new, neglected areas of discrimination. But this statistic misses the point. Even if the majority of complaints come from other areas that does not mean that complaints based on racial or national origin discrimination will simply stop occurring or are unworthy of an investigation. The message sent by pausing current investigations into racial discrimination complaints at HUD is that the agency could care less that they occur and are uninterested in helping American citizens be free from these types of behavior in the housing field.

The second incident from HUD regarding the proposed change in the mission statement of the agency only reinforces the theme that Secretary Carson is steering the agency in a direction that is hostile to civil rights. This incredible proposal is stunning because it seeks to remove the very words that prompted the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 in the first place. The text of that act “prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race.” One of the non – profit organizations that helped to push for passage of the act was the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing. The use of the new phrase “fair, affordable housing” in the mission statement has a very different meaning from “free from discrimination.” A minority citizen could be denied access to fair and affordable housing because of his race and be unsure if HUD would do anything to remedy the situation in his neighborhood. Reading these two incidents together shows a troubling policy shift initiated by Secretary Carson and deserves clarification from the agency to ensure that the agency’s fifty – years of work does not go down a different path than originally intended by Congress. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

National Fair Housing Alliance – non – profit group seeking to eliminate housing discrimination.

Fair Housing Justice Center – non – profit group seeking to strengthen enforcement of fair housing laws.

The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein – book detailing the history of how laws and policies passed by federal, state and local governments promoted racial housing segregation in America.

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org.

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