In an effort to reduce segregated neighborhoods and fulfill the goals of the Fair Housing Act, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced new rules requiring local communities that receive federal grants to analyze housing data for patterns of racial biases and publicly report the data. Flagrant violations of the rule could result in loss of Federal funding. As reported in The Washington Post:
Now, on Wednesday, the Obama administration will announce long-awaited rules designed to repair the law’s unfulfilled promise and promote the kind of racially integrated neighborhoods that have long eluded deeply segregated cities like Chicago and Baltimore. The new rules, a top demand of civil-rights groups, will require cities and towns all over the country to scrutinize their housing patterns for racial bias and to publicly report, every three to five years, the results. Communities will also have to set goals, which will be tracked over time, for how they will further reduce segregation.
“This is the most serious effort that HUD has ever undertaken to do that,” says Julian Castro, the secretary of the department of Housing and Urban Development, who will announce the new rules in Chicago on Wednesday. “I believe that it’s historic.”
Officials insist that they want to work with and not punish communities where segregation exists. But the new reports will make it harder to conceal when communities consistently flout the law. And in the most flagrant cases, HUD holds out the possibility of withholding a portion of the billions of dollars of federal funding it hands out each year.
The centerpiece of the new rule is a vast trove of geographic data covering every community in the country — its racial makeup, its poverty rate, its concentration of housing vouchers and public housing, as well as the quality of its schools and its public transit. Nearly all of this data, already gathered by the government, comes from publicly available sources like the Census. But HUD hopes the database will enable communities to more clearly track where poverty and segregation overlap, where housing voucher recipients live relative to good schools, which neighborhoods contain no affordable housing at all.
The premise of the rule is that all of this mapped data will make hidden barriers visible — and that once communities see them, they will be much harder to ignore.