A taste of Biden’s housing plan
Compassion | His administration could revive an ill-fated attempt to regulate equality in housing
by Charissa Koh
Posted 11/18/20, 04:20 pm
Other issues have overshadowed former Vice President Joe Biden’s plan for homelessness and housing during the campaign. But that plan signals a major change in strategy: Instead of strengthening the economy and incentivizing the private sector to create jobs and housing, Biden would focus on funding low-income homes and emphasize anti-discrimination regulations for those who received government funds. His strategy includes reviving an Obama-era rule that critics say was ineffective and harmful.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides grants to cities and counties, and grant recipients typically must certify that they will follow the 1968 Fair Housing Act and “affirmatively further fair housing.” President Barack Obama in 2015 required grantees to use an extensive assessment tool to report resident demographics and locations relative to “community assets” like schools and transportation. If the results were not acceptable to HUD, the grantee had to explain the unequal access and create a plan to remedy the situation.
The rule was meant to motivate communities to fight discrimination, but critics said it subverted local governments’ authority and proved ineffective and burdensome. This year, HUD Secretary Ben Carson replaced the 2015 rule with one that removes excessive monitoring and reporting requirements in favor of a more localized approach.
Biden’s support for the 2015 rule typifies the first priority listed in his housing plan: “Ending redlining and other discriminatory and unfair practices in the housing market.” While most would agree with that goal, the method raises questions about what standards Biden’s HUD would use and how far it would go to enforce them.
“All cities may be on the hook before long, and HUD money is the bait,” WORLD’s Janie Cheaney wrote of the rule in 2016. “But if HUD can dictate zoning laws and allocation of local taxes, it can ‘approve’ and ‘disapprove’ all benevolent programs according to abstract goals set in D.C.”
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Charissa is a WORLD reporter who often writes about poverty fighting and prison reform, including profiling ministries in the annual Hope Awards for Effective Compassion competition. She is also a part of WORLD's investigative unit, the Caleb Team. Charissa resides with her husband, Josh, in Austin, Texas. Follow her on Twitter @CharissaKoh.