Glenn Thrush — remember him? — attacks Ben Carson and the Department of Housing and Urban Development for abandoning certain suits and others actions undertaken by the Obama administration in the name of “fair housing.” It does not seem to have occurred to Thrush that there are two visions of what fair housing law requires and that Secretary Carson isn’t bound to follow the more radical of the two. Or else, Thrush just wants to hide the ball.
The traditional vision of fair housing is the non-discrimination approach. It is unlawful, for example, to refuse to sell housing to African Americans who can afford to purchase a unit.
The more radical vision is that fair housing requires racially balanced neighborhoods whether African-Americans can afford existing housing in the neighborhood or not. Thus, if the number of African-Americans who can afford existing units in a well-to-do neighborhood is deemed insufficient, new units must be built — ones they can afford.
This aggressive vision is not what the authors of federal fair housing legislation had in mind. Indeed, such legislation never would have passed if it had been thought to require the social engineering of neighborhoods to achieve racial balance.
Nor, in all likelihood, does this notion enjoy popular support today. To take one example Thrush cites, would the public would support the imposition by fiat of “a 233-unit mixed-income, mixed-race housing development slated for an affluent white area known for its high-end shopping and excellent schools”? How about “the siting of neighborhood group homes for parolees and former offenders throughout [a] city’s neighborhoods”?
Under Obama, HUD strained to interpret the law as requiring these results. Under Trump, HUD is moving back towards a more traditional, and my view more defensible, view of fair housing law. That’s all.
Thrush offers no inkling of this. He writes, “the Trump administration is attempting to scale back federal efforts to enforce fair housing laws,” as if the law is settled in favor of the radical view of fair housing law the Obama administration adopted.
It is not, and Thrush makes no attempt to show otherwise. After the mixed signals sent by Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, the law is up for grabs.
If anything, Carson’s HUD hasn’t been aggressive enough in scaling back the work of its predecessor. Instead of rescinding Obama’s AFFH rule, HUD has held it up and promised to “reinterpret” it.
Thus, when a spokesman for Carson’s HUD says the agency actions about which Thrush and other leftists complain represent no philosophical shift, but only the routine recalibration undertaken from administration to administration, he is not, alas, being entirely disingenuous.
However one characterizes these moves, they are the consequence of an election left-liberals lost. A lost election is not, of course, a mandate to violate the law. However, the view of the law that underlies the Carson “recalibration” is legally defensible and, in my view, legally sound.