The Slatest

Civil Rights Advocates Sue Ben Carson for Suspending Fair Housing Act Enforcement Rule

Ben Carson
HUD Secretary Ben Carson Scott Olson/Getty Images

Civil rights advocates filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration Tuesday over Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s suspension of a rule that required local governments to submit plans for desegregation in their communities before receiving federal housing funds.

The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing provision, implemented in 2015, was meant to enforce the now 50-year-old Fair Housing Act, which the federal government had been barely enforcing. Carson argued at the time that the rule amounted to an experiment in “failed socialism” and suspended the rule in January.

According to the Washington Post, HUD argued when it suspended the rule that the task was too difficult for communities and that more than a third of the plans that were first submitted were rejected as a result. Helping these communities craft their plans consumed too much of HUD’s resources, it argued, and instead it would freeze the rule while improving the process so the communities could get their applications right on their first attempt. Many communities would not have to meet the requirement until 2024.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue that the Fair Housing Act is largely useless without the rule to support it. “Under HUD’s pre-2015 process, jurisdictions throughout the country routinely ignored problems of segregation and discrimination while continuing to collect HUD funds,” they said in a statement.

According to the statement, the plaintiffs are particularly concerned about $28 billion allocated for disaster relief funding, and in particular for hurricane recovery in coastal Texas. “The AFFH Rule is needed now more than ever as a bulwark against an unequal rebuilding process in the wake of Hurricane Harvey,” the plaintiffs said in the statement.

The complaint alleges that HUD violated the procedural rules for changing federal regulations when it did not provide advance notice of the change and open a period of public comment, as well as when it did not give a “plausible reason” for the rule’s suspension.

The suit was brought by the National Fair Housing Alliance and two Texas civil rights organizations in the Federal District Court for Washington, D.C.