The Department of Housing and Urban Development has proposed a new plan to change U.S. neighborhoods it says are racially imbalanced or are too tilted toward rich or poor, arguing the country's housing policies have not been effective at creating the kind of integrated communities the agency had hoped for.
The proposed federal rule, called "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing," is currently under a 60-day public comment period. Though details of how the policy would specifically work are unclear, the rule says HUD would provide states, local governments and others who receive agency money with data and a geospatial tool to look at "patterns of integration and segregation; racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty; access to education, employment, low-poverty, transportation, and environmental health."
States would then assess the best way to integrate communities deemed by HUD's data to not be integrated enough. A HUD official, who did not want to speak on record because of the public comment period, said the rule hopes to better match up HUD-assisted housing with the communities that have good hospitals, schools and other assets.
The move has been welcomed by civil rights groups including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, whose senior director of the economic department Dedrick Muhammad says the policy could result in more access to economic resources for minorities.
"It's not just having people of different colors live together just to do so," he says. "African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to live in segregated communities, that are predominantly lower income, have less strong public resources, less schools and educational opportunities, employment opportunities. This kind of integration strengthens economic equality."
But the rule has also attracted criticism from those who say the policy is idealistic and unlikely to work.
Ed Pinto, of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told Fox News the rule was "just the latest of a series of attempts by HUD to social engineer the American people," and cited failures of the public housing and urban renewal policies of the 1950s and 1960s, and of changes to house financing in the 1990s.
HUD estimates that compliance costs would range from $3 to $9 million each year.