Editor’s note, Jan. 16: HUD will accept comments through March 16.

A proposed rule issued Tuesday by the Department of Housing and Urban Development would significantly weaken efforts to reduce housing discrimination and segregation in the United States, according to fair housing advocates.

“In today’s proposed rule, HUD heaves its shovel once more to further bury effective compliance and enforcement of the Fair Housing Act,” LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan told McKnight’s Senior Living on Tuesday. “In the housing sphere, no laws deserve as much aggressive oversight the nation’s fair housing laws,” she added.

LeadingAge is “in strong opposition” to the proposal and plans to submit comments to the agency, Sloan added. The proposed rule has not been published in the Federal Register yet, but an 84-page prepublication version is available. Comments will be accepted for 60 days after publication.

HUD said Tuesday that its proposed Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule “offers clearer guidance to states and local governments to help them improve affordable housing choices in their community.”

The rule, however, “would largely reverse 2015 regulations designed to ensure that housing agencies and communities receiving [HUD] funding fulfill their obligations under the 1968 Fair Housing Act,” said Peggy Bailey, vice president for housing policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization and policy institute. “That law requires them to identify barriers to housing access for certain specified groups and take affirmative steps toward ending housing discrimination and reversing damage from many decades of residential segregation and racist housing policies,” she added.

HUD originally adopted the AFFH rule in 2015, during the Obama administration, to guide compliance efforts related to the Fair Housing Act. The rule was suspended in 2018 under the Trump administration, however. “HUD found that in contrast to its stated goals, the AFFH rule proved ineffective, highly prescriptive and effectively discouraged the production of affordable housing,” the agency said Tuesday.

The National Fair Housing Alliance called the new proposal “alarming.”

“The new proposed rule also conflates fair housing and affordable housing,” the organization said. “It presumes that 1) eliminating various regulatory controls will expand the supply of affordable housing; and 2) expanding the supply of affordable housing will solve fair housing problems. Neither presumption is true.”

Additionally, the proposal “let[s] localities off the hook by explicitly stating there will be no consequences if they keep their restrictive zoning laws,” according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The CBPP and NLIHC said HUD should reinstitute the 2015 AFFH rule.