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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

White House to scrap fair housing rule as Trump bids for suburban voters

The White House plans to eliminate a sweeping Obama-era fair housing regulation on Thursday and replace it with a much weaker rule amid an effort by President Donald Trump to paint rival Joe Biden as a danger to the suburbs.

A handful of White House officials led the effort to craft a new rule over objections from both within the White House and at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to a person familiar with the matter. HUD had already released its own 84-page proposal to overhaul the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule in January, the culmination of more than a year of work.

Trump has hinted at the plan in recent weeks, casting the Obama rule as “devastating” for the suburbs. “The suburb destruction will end with us,” he said in a speech last week. Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has pledged to restore the original version of the 2015 rule, which HUD suspended in 2018 when it drafted the revision.

Administration officials briefed select congressional staff on Wednesday on the new proposal, which will replace a rule requiring local governments to proactively track patterns of poverty and segregation with a checklist of 92 questions in order to gain access to federal housing funds. Critics decried the plan as costly and overly complicated.

The new rule will use a much lower bar, essentially relying on local governments to self-certify that they are “furthering fair housing.”

The public will not have a chance to weigh in on the new rule, which will be considered “final.” HUD and the Office of Management and Budget decided to use a waiver under a provision of the Administrative Procedure Act that exempts rules related to grants from notice-and-comment requirements.

“Secretary Carson is ripping down the 2015 Obama AFFH rule, as this is the best way to preserve community and neighborhood choice,” HUD spokesperson Brad Bishop told POLITICO. “Washington is never in tune with the American people’s needs like those at the local level.”

The White House declined to comment.

Trump tweeted about the rule late last month.

“At the request of many great Americans who live in the Suburbs, and others, I am studying the AFFH housing regulation that is having a devastating impact on these once thriving Suburban areas,” he tweeted June 30. “Corrupt Joe Biden wants to make them MUCH WORSE. Not fair to homeowners, I may END!”

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