On October 23, 2017, civil rights organizations, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC), Public Citizen Litigation Group, and others, sued the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), challenging its decision to suspend the enactment of the Small Area Fair Market Rent (Small Area FMR) policy. Specifically named in the lawsuit is the HUD Secretary Ben Carson. The policy was originally scheduled to go in to effect on January 1, 2018, but HUD has suspended it until January 2020, claiming it needed time for further study.
Subsidies provided by public housing authorities currently use a formula that is based on metropolitan-wide rent, and limits the areas in which families and individuals can find housing. The Small Area FMR will change the HUD voucher formula by basing it on ZIP code. As noted by Philip Tegeler, PRRAC’s Executive Director, “The purpose was to finally start to address the high levels of racial and economic segregation in the Housing Choice Voucher program. If this suspension is not challenged, we will continue to see low-income families and children steered into high poverty neighborhoods where rents are lowest.” The decision to suspend the implementation of Small Area FMR is being seen as a civil rights violation as well as an issue of racial segregation since a majority of HUD voucher users are disproportionately Black and Latino.
Corporate media outlets like CNN, Fox News, Huffington Post, or MSNBC have not covered this story. The only coverage currently available can be found on the NAACP Legal Defense Fund website, and in articles by Common Dreams and the Intercept.
Rachel M. Cohen, “Civil Rights Groups Sue Ben Carson For Delaying Anti-Segregation Housing Reform,” The Intercept, October 23, 2017, http://theintercept.com/2017/10/23/ben-carson-hud-lawsuit-section-8-vouchers-fmr-naacp.
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, “Civil Rights Groups Sue U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Over Suspension of Rule Assisting Low-Income Families,” Common Dreams, October 23, 2017, http://commondreams.org/newswire/2017/10/23/civil-rights-groups-sue-us-department-housing-and-urban-development-over.
Student Researcher: Dominic Rosales (Sonoma State University), Katherine Epps (California State University, East Bay), Kelly Van Boekhout (Diablo Valley College)
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