Evelyn Lim

For many Americans, the suburbs are a key part of the American Dream: safe, decent, and affordable housing, with open space and good schools, away from the congestion of the urban core. We must do everything in our power to prevent our suburban communities from falling victim to the same out-of-touch policies that have made our country’s cities unaffordable and unsafe. By terminating the Obama Administration’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Rule, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ensured that localities and communities would have control over the makeup of their neighborhoods, not unelected bureaucrats in Washington.

In 2015, the Obama Administration sought to inject the Federal government into nearly every local zoning and land use decision by promulgating the AFFH regulation. This rule read into four words from a statute — affirmatively furthering fair housing — sweeping powers for HUD, and required the use of an assessment tool that was onerous and overly bureaucratic. Worse yet, it failed to meet its own goal of furthering fair housing.

The assessment tool was piloted to 49 communities, yet only 39% of the submissions were sufficient; 35% were returned as unacceptable because they did not comply with the complex and overly burdensome regulation. Many jurisdictions spent additional funds to hire consultants, adding even more layers and cost to attempting compliance. HUD expended $3.5 million in technical assistance for these 49 jurisdictions and hired new employees whose salaries cost the American taxpayer $15 million a year. A heavy price tag to achieve sub-par results.

AFFH was controversial from the start. Local entitlement communities like Douglas and Jefferson Counties grappled with the decision of whether to accept HUD grants. Perhaps worse than the bureaucratic nightmare, compliance tied the hands of local leaders into limiting single family zoning and instead building high-density “stack and pack” apartments with no regard for community needs. All the way from Washington, AFFH was socially engineering closely knit suburbs and smaller communities across America, hence the phrase “war on suburbs.”

In 2018, Secretary Ben Carson suspended the unworkable assessment tool. Then, in August of 2020 HUD rescinded the AFFH rule in its entirety, and replaced it with the Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice rule. By doing so, the Department handed back control of zoning laws and community planning to the people of Colorado.

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Predictably, these sensible actions brought the ire of far-left voices that saw the rule as abdicating HUD’s responsibility to enforce fair housing laws. That could not be further from the truth. Under Secretary Carson leadership, HUD has strengthened enforcement of the FHA, and the record speaks for itself. Since 2017, HUD has cleared a backlog of nearly 23,000 civil and housing rights cases that the Obama Administration left in its wake. Each one of these cases represent a person or family that believes they have been subjected to discriminatory actions by a landlord or financial agency.

In Colorado over the past three years we have completed almost 400 fair housing investigations: 110 this year alone. We are vigilant in enforcing our duties and protecting our citizens, recently issuing charges of discrimination on the basis of familial status and disability against entities constructing multifamily dwellings in downtown Denver.

At HUD we take seriously our civil rights enforcement role. At the same time, we are committed to ensuring local leaders have the flexibility and capability to do what is best for their communities, fostering conditions for self-sustainability and economic freedom to allow more Americans to forge their own destinies and achieve their own American Dream.

If you believe you were a victim of housing discrimination, you have a right to file a housing discrimination complaint with HUD. Call 800-669-9777 (TTY: 800-927-9275), or visit HUD.gov for information about filing a complaint.