HUD Sued Over Suspension of Obama-Era Fair Housing Rule and Return to 'Dysfunctional' System

The National Fair Housing Alliance and other civil rights groups sued the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Secretary Ben Carson Tuesday, hoping to reinstate an Obama-era anti-discrimination rule that requires state and local governments to address segregation in housing in order to receive federal funding.

The complaint, filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that HUD unlawfully suspended a key provision of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Rule, in January, and removed civil rights groups' oversight of up to $5.5 billion in funding annually through 2024 across nearly 1,000 jurisdictions.

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"By returning to the dysfunctional, pre-[Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing] Rule regime that HUD itself concluded did not work, HUD also is violating its statutory duty under the Fair Housing Act to ensure that federal funds are used to affirmatively further fair housing," the lawsuit states.

In July 2015 HUD, under President Barack Obama, adopted the AFFH Rule. It was the first set of federal regulations that guided compliance efforts of state and local governments that received HUD block grants.

Carson slammed the AFFH Rule as "social engineering."

"By referring government entities to a system which it has acknowledged has failed to accomplish the goals of the Fair Housing Act, HUD has clearly signaled that it does not take the spirit of the Fair Housing Act or its own responsibilities to uphold it seriously," Jorge Andres Soto, director of public policy for the National Fair Housing Alliance, said during a press call.

Civil Rights Groups Sue HUD over Suspended Implementation of Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule #AFFHNow

— National Fair Housing Alliance (@natfairhouse) May 8, 2018

The suit, which includes plaintiffs Texas Appleseed, Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC, alleges that HUD violated the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to give advance notice of the five-year delay on implementing the rule, or allow for public comments beforehand.

"An agency can't just decide one day that it's not going to follow its own regulations," Madison Sloan, director of Texas Appleseed's disaster recovery and fair housing project, said during the call.

HUD did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Newsweek on Tuesday.