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HUD plans to probe neighborhood discrimination

WASHINGTON – Sept. 11, 2013 – The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is proposing a new rule that would allow it to track diversity in neighborhoods across the country and require municipalities to fix discrimination issues.

Under the proposed rule, “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing,” HUD will collect data on segregation and discrimination. The agency says the “discrimination database” will help ensure that communities have a better mix of economic, racial and ethnic diversity. If a local government is found not to have what HUD deems a proper mix, the municipality will be forced to make changes or HUD will curb its federal funding.

“Unfortunately, in too many of our hardest hit communities, no matter how hard a child or her parents work, the life chances of that child – even her lifespan – is determined by the ZIP code she grows up in. This is simply wrong,” says HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.

HUD says the new rule is focused on improving integrated living patterns, overcoming historic patterns of segregation, reducing racial and ethnic concentrations of poverty, and responding to disproportionate housing needs by protected classes.

However, critics say the proposed rule is going too far, giving HUD too much power to overrule zoning laws, housing finance policy, infrastructure planning and transportation.

In Westchester County, N.Y., for example, officials say that the fair housing mandates by HUD are changing the area’s zoning and requiring more affordable housing. The county’s town of Cortlandt is mostly residential, with only a few vacant parcels that could be used for commercial development. Town officials want to encourage commercial development to stabilize the tax base and make it one of the most affordable in Westchester County.

“What [HUD is] trying to do is to say discrimination and zoning is the same thing,” says Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. “They are not. Discrimination won’t be tolerated. I won’t tolerate it. Zoning, though, protects what can and can’t be built in a neighborhood.”

HUD’s proposed rule is currently undergoing a public comment period until Sept. 17.

Source: “Obama administration using housing department in effort to diversify neighborhoods,” FOX News (Aug. 8, 2013); “Washington’s ‘Fair Housing’ Assault on Local Zoning,” The Wall Street Journal (Sept. 5, 2013); and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

© Copyright 2013 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

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