(CNSNews.com) - Although the Fair Housing Act bars discrimination, historic segregation patterns still exist in this country.
On Wednesday, two weeks after getting the Supreme Court's okay, the Obama administration issued a final rule intended to move poor people "into communities that are rich with opportunity," as HUD Secretary Julián Castro phrased it in his news release.
The new regulation is all about "affirmatively furthering fair housing," HUD says.
To help localities identify patterns of racial and ethnic discrimination, HUD will provide states, local governments, pubic housing agencies and the general public with maps, charts and other data showing integrated and segregated living patterns; racially or ethnically concentrated areas of poverty; the location of subsidized housing; and where some people have "access to opportunity" based on "key community assets," such as good schools and job opportunities.
The data will help HUD grantees -- and community activists! -- analyze the "fair housing landscape and set locally-determined fair housing priorities and goals," HUD said.
HUD, in its new role as central planner, will review those locally determined priorities and goals, using federal funding as the means to achieve its will.
If communities want to continue receiving federal housing funds, they must spend the money in ways that move inner-city minorities, for example, into subsidized housing in wealthier, whiter suburbs.
“As a former mayor, I know firsthand that strong communities are vital to the well-being and prosperity of families,” Castro said in annoucing the final rule on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, too many Americans find their dreams limited by where they come from, and a ZIP code should never determine a child’s future. This important step will give local leaders the tools they need to provide all Americans with access to safe, affordable housing in communities that are rich with opportunity.”
HUD said its "balanced approach" includes revitalization in some blighted areas -- "as well as increased housing choice in areas of opportunity."
The regulation "clarifies and simplifies existing fair housing obligations," and it also creates more red tape: Communities that get federal housing funds must complete an "Assessment of Fair Housing planning process, which will help them analyze "challenges to fair housing choice and establish their own goals and priorities to address the fair housing barriers in their community."
Asked at the White House Wednesday if HUD's new regulation is social engineering, spokesman Josh Earnest said the Obama administration "continues to believe that zoning is and should remain a local power." He said the rule does not infringe on local decision-making.
"In fact, it actually supports decision-making and ensures that more resources and more data can be provided to local officials as they make land-use and zoning decisions. And that is what we believe is the proper role of the federal government as we work with state and local officials to accomplish what I think we all share as a priority, which is ensuring affordable, quality housing for every single American."
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that federal housing law allows people to challenge lending rules, zoning laws and other housing practices that have a "disparate" or harmful impact on minority groups, even if there is no proof that companies or government agencies intended to discriminate.
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