(CNSNews.com) – Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.,) chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, on Tuesday mentioned a 1973 housing discrimination investigation conducted by the Justice Department against Donald Trump in accusing the administration and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson of being “hostile to fair housing protections.”
During the committee’s hearing on housing discrimination, Waters used her opening statement to blast the president, saying, “According to news reports, Secretary Carson proposed taking the words ‘free from discrimination’ out of HUD’s mission statement. They also reported that he halted fair housing investigations and sidelined top advisors at HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
“These are unprecedented attacks on fair housing and must not go unanswered. Let’s not forget that Donald Trump and his father were once charged with violating the Fair Housing Act for discriminating against African-American and Puerto Rican renters. Given that Trump was engaged in housing discrimination himself, it is unsurprising that his administration has been so hostile to Fair Housing protections,” she said.
During the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton brought up a decades-old housing discrimination case brought by the Justice Department against Trump, his father Fred, and Trump Management, that alleged they turned away potential black renters from housing developments in New York while renting to white tenants.
In his defense, Trump said at the presidential debate, “Yes, when I was very young, I went into my father's company — had a real estate company in Brooklyn and Queens, and we, along with many, many other companies throughout the country — it was a federal lawsuit — were sued. We settled the suit with zero, with no admission of guilt."
A consent decree issued in the case in 1975 stated:
“The claim of the United States is that the defendants have failed and neglected to exercise their affirmative and nondelegable duty under the Fair Housing Act to assure compliance by their subordinates, with the result that equal housing opportunity has been denied to substantial numbers of persons and that defendant's subordinates have failed to carry out their obligations under the Act.
“Defendants vigorously deny said allegations. Accordingly, without adjudication of the merit and without any admission as to the existence or absence of liability, and in order to resolve this matter without further protracted litigation, the parties hereto are prepared to resolve this case by the entry of a Consent Decree.”
During Tuesday’s hearing, Waters cited her bill, the Restoring Fair Housing Protects Eliminated by HUD Act, saying it “is designed to put protections that Ben Carson and the Trump administration have diminished back in place.”
“The legislation requires HUD to implement AFFH rule as soon as possible, codifies HUD’s mission statement and statute and requires HUD to reverse the harmful actions the Trump administration has taken to weaken fair housing,” she said.
Waters noted that April is National Fair Housing Month and that last April “marked the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, the landmark 1968 legislation that outlawed housing discrimination.”
“But here we are 51 years after the Fair Housing Act became law,” she said, “and housing discrimination remains a widespread problem in this country.”
“According to the National Fair Housing Alliance, individuals filed 28,843 housing discrimination complaints in 2017. Under the Trump administration, fair housing protections are under attack,” Waters claimed.
“In 2018, HUD Secretary Ben Carson halted implementation of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule, an important rule finalized by the Obama administration that provides community with greater clarity on how to help break down barriers to fair housing opportunity, including by providing local authorities with better data to analyze their housing needs,” she said.
Waters also mentioned HUD’s decision to charge Facebook with housing discrimination over the company’s targeted ad practices.
“Today’s action follows HUD’s investigation of a Secretary-initiated complaint filed on August 13, 2018. HUD alleges that Facebook unlawfully discriminates based on race, color, national origin, religion, familial status, sex, and disability by restricting who can view housing-related ads on Facebook’s platforms and across the internet,” HUD stated in a press release on its website.
“Further, HUD claims Facebook mines extensive data about its users and then uses those data to determine which of its users view housing-related ads based, in part, on these protected characteristics,” HUD added.
“Facebook is discriminating against people based upon who they are and where they live,” Carson said in a statement. “Using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face.”
“It is also important to recognize that as technology has evolved, so too are the ways that Americans are searching for and finding housing. A recent study found that 73 percent of all renters use online platforms to find housing. Regulators must be proactive in scrutinizing online platforms where housing is advertised to ensure that the algorithms and targeting tools are not being utilized to discriminate against minority groups,” Waters said Tuesday.
“It is a positive development that following public pressure from advocates, HUD reversed its decision to halt its investigation into Facebook and allowed HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity to charge Facebook with violating their Fair Housing Act. However, much more must be done to ensure that digital platforms are not being used for housing discrimination,” she said.