Federal agency seeks to reduce segregation in housing patterns across US

WASHINGTON – The Department of Housing and Urban Development is tightening enforcement of fair housing laws by requiring cities to identify persistent patterns of racial bias in their communities and work to eliminate them, Housing Secretary Julian Castro said Wednesday.

Through a new rule, HUD will provide data and other resources to help participating cities set goals, and track and publicly report progress over time, Castro said. The goal is better enforcement of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which, Castro said, has fallen short over time.

“We must give every young person access to a community of opportunity,” Castro said. “We can do that by revitalizing struggling communities and by giving people the chance to live in areas where they can thrive; all with local leadership deciding what strategies work best for them and their needs.”

HUD will provide guidance and technical assistance so local officials can examine their local housing patterns and establish diverse communities.

“Policy makers at the local level now have a stronger tool for how they can bring about equal opportunity for their communities,” Castro said. “A zip code should never prevent anyone from reaching their aspirations.”

The agency says the rule change addresses recommendations from the Government Accountability Office and civil rights activists on improving fair housing enforcement. Local communities would handle implementing the changes, Castro stressed, even though HUD maintains the ability to withhold federal funding for those that fail to show sufficient progress. He added that he doesn’t anticipate withholding such funds.

“The government should never plan for communities, it should plan with them,” Castro said.

The Fair Housing Act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, prohibits discrimination in housing-related transactions on the basis of race, colour, religion, gender or national origin. The law was expanded in 1988 to bar housing discrimination based on disability or family status.