President Joe Biden signed an executive action to determine if any Trump-era policies “undermined fair housing” laws and, if so, to remedy them.
The “memorandum recognizes the central role the federal government has played implementing housing policies across the United States, from redlining to mortgage discrimination to destructive federal highway construction, that have had racially discriminatory impacts,” according to a White House fact sheet.
The action directs the Department of Housing and Urban Development “to examine the effects of the previous Administration’s regulatory actions that undermined fair housing policies and laws … and to take steps necessary based on that analysis to fully implement the Fair Housing Act's requirements.”
The executive memo follows other housing initiatives taken by the Biden administration recently. The president also requested HUD as well as other federal agencies to extend their foreclosure and eviction moratoriums. He also included $30 billion in emergency rental, energy and water assistance assistance in his $1.9 trillion rescue proposal.
Other actions may be on the way, based on the newest executive memo.
“Undoubtedly, Biden will reinstate the AFFH (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing) rule that the Trump Administration repealed," Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at Redfin, a national real estate brokerage firm, told Yahoo Money. “This rule created a framework for local governments to take meaningful action against discrimination in housing.”
The Fair Housing Act — passed in the late 1960s — followed a suite of other civil rights acts, including those to prohibit racial discrimination in the workplace, schools, and voting spheres.
“While housing discrimination has been illegal for 50 years, you can still see the harms that housing and lending discrimination have perpetuated even today,” Renee Williams, senior staff attorney at the National Housing Law Project, a nonprofit housing and legal advocacy center, said. “In crisis after crisis after crisis we have experienced as a nation, the impacts are most acute in BIPOC communities.”
For instance, in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis, large financial institutions issued subprime mortgages to many borrowers of color who otherwise could have qualified for better terms. When the housing values tanked, many of those homeowners couldn’t keep up with their ballooning mortgage payments and had their homes foreclosed.
This crisis is no different. Recent estimates found that between 7 million and 14.2 million renter households are at risk of eviction, but the risk is significantly greater for Black and Hispanic Americans, according to a recent study from The Brookings Institution. The same holds true for those at risk of foreclosure, raising the need to not only address systemic housing discrimination, but also the immediate risks from the pandemic.
“While today's memo is an important first step,” Williams said, “we as a nation need to meet this call to action to ensure that everyone has a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home.”