Last week, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly confirmed San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. One of Castro’s first official acts as HUD Secretary should be to concretize the Department’s duty to promote fair housing throughout its programs and activities.
Protecting equal housing opportunity is at the core of HUD’s mission. For almost 50 years, the Department has been required by statute affirmatively to further fair housing. That duty includes ensuring that states and local governments that receive HUD funds for housing and community development efforts take proactive steps to address discrimination, foster residential integration, and promote equal access.
Upholding fair housing where taxpayer dollars are deployed is the smart thing to do, as well as the legal thing to do. Diverse communities connected to quality schools, transportation, and job opportunities strengthen our economy and our social fabric. And the opportunity to live, learn, and play together prepares children of all races for an increasingly diverse workplace and world.
Yet, despite the clear legal mandate and the proven social benefits, HUD has never issued regulations implementing this principle. The lack of regulations, and inadequate federal enforcement, continue to hold back progress in communities around the country. For example, some cities and towns still maintain arbitrary rules prohibiting smaller homes or apartments that working people could afford, which in many places excludes most people of color. In many places, longstanding patterns of neighborhood segregation continue to keep people of different backgrounds living apart. And some housing developers still refuse to make buildings accessible to people with disabilities. Overcoming these obstacles takes work and attention. Yet HUD has not done all that it can—or is required to do—to ensure that its funds are used with accountability and fairness.
A year ago, HUD issued proposed regulations to implement its fair housing obligation. The draft rules were far from perfect, lacking important accountability measures, but they represented an important step forward. The agency received scores of public comments, but has still not issued a final rule that would provide clear instructions to states, localities, and residents. With Mr. Castro confirmed, it’s time to move forward with a final regulation.