EDITORIAL: Latest Trump salvo targets fair housing

York Dispatch Editorial Board
U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, left, and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, right, visit Life Remodeled's Durfee Innovation Society building on Thursday, June 7, 2018, in Detroit. The Associated Press reported that one of Carson's proposals would raise rents about 20 percent for low-income tenants in the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas. That's according to an analysis done by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and provided to the AP. (AP Photo/Mike Householder)

If corporations, as former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney famously insisted, really are people, they’re about the only people the Trump administration is interested in assisting.

They were the overwhelming beneficiaries of Republicans’ 2017, deficit-busting tax giveaway; they’re enjoying the financial benefits of watered-down banking regulations; and they labor these days under exceedingly lax oversight by do-nothing bureaus like the Environmental Protection Agency.

The latest example of putting corporation-style people over the flesh-and-blood type comes via the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which wants to do away with Civil Rights-era protections to make it exceedingly more difficult to file legal complaints of housing discrimination.

Under the pending rule — formally published in the Federal Register on Monday and set to take effect after a 60-day comment period — parties alleging housing discrimination would have to clear a litany of bureaucratic hurdles to make their case.

Specifically, reports the New York Times, the new rule “would force those initiating lawsuits not only to show that a specific housing policy has a discriminatory effect, but also to show that the effect is ‘arbitrary, artificial and unnecessary’ in achieving a ‘legitimate objective.’ There must also be a ‘robust causal link’ between the specific policy and the discriminatory effect.”

Oh yeah, and anyone challenging the policy would have to demonstrate it affects a number of members of a protected class rather than a single individual.

Talk about a lopsided burden of proof.

“HUD’s proposal makes it far more difficult for those injured by stealth discriminatory policies to prove discrimination,” community-investment organizer Jesse Van Tol told ABC News. “The bar was already set high and HUD‘s proposal would put it in the stratosphere — it really strains credulity.”

So does HUD Secretary Ben Carson, who defended the policy by saying — falsely — that it “increases Americans’ access to fair and affordable housing.” Please.

The proposal couldn’t come at a worse time. While the 1968 Fair Housing Act was intended to address exclusionary zoning laws, unfair insurance and mortgage-lending policies, and other discriminatory practices, homeownership by African-Americans is at an all-time low.

And the effects of housing discrimination are well known and long documented.

“Where a child lives — including the quality and affordability of her family’s housing, and whether her family owns their home — shapes how healthy that child will be, what kind of schools she can attend, even how long she’ll live,” write health and poverty experts Brian Smedley and Rachel A. Davis.

They were responding to a report by the Center for Investigative Reporting whose title encapsulates its findings: “For people of color, banks are closing the door to homeownership.”

As Lisa Rice, executive vice president of the National Fair Housing Alliance, told the researchers, “wealth and financial stability are inextricably linked to housing opportunity and homeownership.”

The bottom line: Discriminatory housing practices have real and detrimental financial, physical and societal impacts for minority communities. And they are far from a thing of the past.

Yet, Trump, Carson and their HUD cronies would deliberately heighten the hurdles by protecting the very institutions whose discriminatory practices have created the homeownership gap — the very institutions that lobbied so hard for the new rules.

It is yet another example of the president and his administration elbowing aside civil rights protections so that they can remove accountability and pad profit margins for their favorite people: corporations.