A senior living association said it is “disappointed and concerned” with the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s announcement that it will terminate an Obama-era rule, reversing 2015 regulations designed to reduce housing discrimination and segregation.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson announced the agency will “ultimately terminate” the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulation, which he said “proved to be complicated, costly and ineffective,” and replace it with the Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice rule.

“After reviewing thousands of comments on the proposed changes to the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation, we found it to be unworkable and ultimately a waste of time for localities to comply with, too often resulting in funds being steered away from communities that need them most,” Carson said.

“Requiring local governments to take proactive steps to protect and further fair housing access is critically important for older adults of all walks of life,” LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan told McKnight’s Senior Living. “Our membership of affordable senior housing providers help older adults find a safe and dignified place to age, and we rely on our partners in government to pave the way. During a pandemic that has hurt older adult and racial minority communities the most, we need to make sure fair housing protections are strong.”

Under the new rule, local officials have more jurisdiction in determining what qualifies as fair housing. To qualify as fair housing under the new rule, a development must be “affordable, safe, decent, free of unlawful discrimination and accessible under civil rights laws.” 

The Obama-era rule was adopted to guide compliance efforts related to the 1968 Fair Housing Act. The rule was suspended in 2018 after HUD said it “provided ineffective, highly prescriptive and effectively discouraged the production of affordable housing.”

Critics say the new rule sets a lower bar, relying on local governments to self-certify that they are furthering fair housing.

Carson said programs such as the Opportunity Zone shift the burden away from communities “so they are not forced to comply with complicated regulations that require hundreds of pages of reporting.” Programs like the Opportunity Zone, he added, allow communities to work with partners to provide “upward mobility, improved housing and home ownership.”

“Washington has no business dictating what is best to meet your local community’s unique needs,” Carson said.

Related Articles