(CNSNews.com) - "If you want a bus stop added near your home, or more affordable housing nearby, now you'll have the data you need to make your case," President Obama told Americans in his Saturday radio address.
He was talking about the way his administration is interpreting the Fair Housing Act -- an interpretation approved last month by the U.S. Supreme Court. The law explicitly bars intentional discrimination -- and the Obama administration says the law also requires HUD to actively promote "fair housing." Even where there is no intentional discrimination, "disparate impact" must be taken into account.
As CNSNews.com reported last week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development on July 8 issued a final rule intended to move poor people "into communities that are rich with opportunity," as HUD Secretary Julián Castro phrased it.
To help local governments identify patterns of racial and ethnic discrimination, HUD will issue maps, charts and other data showing racially or ethnically concentrated areas of poverty; the location of subsidized housing; and where wealthier people have "access to opportunity" based on "key community assets," such as good schools and job opportunities.
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.
President Obama on Saturday mentioned the Supreme Court ruling and his plan going forward:
"Just a few weeks ago, the Supreme Court ruled that policies segregating minorities in poor neighborhoods, even unintentionally, are against the law. The Court recognized what many people know to be true from their own lives: that too often, where people live determines what opportunities they have in life."
The president noted that children living just a few blocks apart may "lead incredibly different lives."
"They go to different schools, play in different parks, shop in different stores, and walk down different streets. And often, the quality of those schools and the safety of those parks and streets are far from equal -- which means those kids aren't getting an equal shot in life.
"That runs against the values we hold dear as Americans," Obama said.
(President Obama could have used his own daughters as examples. They attend an elite private school in Washington, in a city where many poor blacks struggle in failing public schools.)
"In this country, of all countries, a person's zip code shouldn't decide their destiny," Obama said in his Saturday address. "We don't guarantee equal outcomes, but we do strive to guarantee an equal shot at opportunity -- in every neighborhood, for every American.
"Now, the Fair Housing Act also says that this isn't the responsibility of a landlord alone. Local governments have a role to play, too. That's why, this week, my administration announced that we'll make it easier for communities to implement this law.
"We're using data on housing and neighborhood conditions to help cities identify the areas that need the most help. We're doing more to help communities meet their own goals.
"Plus, by opening this data to everybody, everyone in a community -- not just elected officials -- can weigh in. If you want a bus stop added near your home, or more affordable housing nearby, now you'll have the data you need to make your case.
"These actions won't make every community perfect. That's something we all have to strive for in our own lives. But they will help make our communities stronger and more vibrant. And they'll help keep this a country where kids from every background can grow up knowing that no matter who you are, what you look like, or where you live, you can write your own story.
"That's the America I love. And it's the America I'll keep fighting for," Obama concluded.
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