Offering grant money as incentive so that affordable housing can be built in wealthier neighborhoods is what a new Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rule, designed by the Obama administration, is trying to accomplish in the name of diversification. A spokesman says: “HUD is working with communities across the country to fulfill the promise of equal opportunity for all. The proposed policy seeks to break down barriers to access to opportunity in communities supported by HUD funds. HUD is citing the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which prohibited race and wealth discrimination in real estate transactions, as the basis for taking such an action. Those communities that survey their neighborhoods and pinpoint where segregation is present can qualify for extra funds if they develop a plan to diversify its residents. House Republicans are currently blocking what has been dubbed the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule. Critics, according to The Hill, are accusing President Obama of focusing too much on race. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) recently said that the administration “shouldn’t be holding hostage grant monies aimed at community improvement based on its unrealistic utopian ideas of what every community should resemble.” He continued:
Instead of living with neighbors you like and choose — this breaks up the core fabric of how we start to look at communities. That just brings unease to everyone in that area. People have to feel comfortable where they live. If I don’t feel comfortable in my own backyard, where do I feel comfortable?
This grab by the federal government could allow HUD to assert its own authority over city zoning laws, critics say, and even decide who lives where and what types of homes can be built; dramatically affecting property values and increasing taxes. But for every critic, there is a proponent. Margery Turner of the Urban Institute praised the rule stating:
This rule is not about forcing anyone to live anywhere they don’t want to. It’s really about addressing long-standing practices that prevent people from living where they want to. In our country, decades of public policies and institutional practices have built deeply segregated and unequal neighborhoods. Segregation is clearly a problem that is blocking upward mobility for children growing up today.