How Ben Carson at Housing Could Undo a Desegregation Effort – New York Times

 In U.S.

President Obama’s civil-rights legacy looked on track, not long ago, to include a major push against America’s deeply entrenched housing segregation. In 2015, his administration rolled out a rule requiring local communities to assess their own patterns of racial and income segregation and make genuine plans to address them.

The move followed years of debate and came as segregated cities like Baltimore and Chicago faced renewed bouts of racial unrest. The federal government, advocates hoped, was finally trying to repair a long-unkept promise of the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

Now that rule is likely to be undermined — and possibly erased — by a Department of Housing and Urban Development headed by Ben Carson. President-elect Donald J. Trump offered the cabinet post on Wednesday to Mr. Carson, a neurosurgeon and a former presidential candidate, who grew up poor in Detroit but has no experience in housing policy.

While we know little about what Mr. Carson would do at the agency, he has downplayed the role of government in his own up-from-urban-poverty story. (“If you don’t succeed,” his mother taught him, according to his autobiography “Gifted Hands,” “you have only yourself to blame.”) And he has specifically criticized the Obama housing rule.

Known as “affirmatively furthering fair housing,” the rule has been politically contentious. Its backers argue that it is essential to remedying the long history of government and private-sector discrimination that has resulted in poor, segregated neighborhoods persisting to this day. Critics say that the rule amounts to government overreach into the decisions — and demographic makeup — of individual communities and a free housing market.

Photo

A circa-1960s view of the Cabrini-Green public housing complex in Chicago, which became synonymous with unrelenting poverty and murderous street gangs.

Credit
Chicago History Museum, via Getty Images

Republicans in Congress have tried to defund its implementation. Mr. Carson wrote last year that the new policy followed the government’s history of failed “mandated social-engineering schemes,” and would redirect low-income housing primarily into wealthy, white communities that oppose it.

If he is confirmed by Congress, Mr. Carson would have wide latitude to shape or slow the rollout of the rule, along with broader enforcement of the Fair Housing Act.

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