Hypocrisy of local deep-Blue pols on residential segregation

This article was originally published on August 26, 2020 by the New York Daily News with the headline, “Anti-Trump types, look in the mirror: While the president stokes fear, liberals are timid in confronting segregation.”

Ben Carson, President Trump’s usually low-profile Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is being rewarded with a speaking slot at the Republican National Convention Thursday evening.

He is fresh from executing the president’s direction to gut an Obama-era federal rule requiring that localities “affirmatively further fair housing” and from co-authoring with the president an inflammatory op-ed opposing federal efforts to reduce housing segregation.

Trump is desperate to keep the “dangers” of affordable housing and racial integration a central and explicit part of his campaign. Just this past weekend, he tweeted the false charge that Joe Biden and his allies would flood suburbs with low-income housing and thus generate a crime wave in suburbia.

Because the president so clearly relishes the continuation of the residentially segregated status quo, it is easy to see that the real danger comes from him.

But what about those who pretend that they want to affirmatively further fair housing? After HUD suspended the Obama rule, abbreviated as AFFH, at the beginning of 2018, New York City claimed that it remained “committed to the principles of the AFFH and takes seriously its obligation to affirmatively further fair housing.”

A week before HUD proposed a toothless replacement rule in mid-January, the city released a draft assessment of fair housing, with Vicki Been, the city’s deputy mayor for housing and economic development, saying, “If you don’t look hard at where you are and how you got there, you’re never going to do a good job of getting to a better place.”

Unfortunately, the city won’t take a hard look either at where it is or how it got there.

New York’s draft assessment of fair housing was so bad that the Civil Rights Committee of the New York City Bar wrote that the plan “fails to meet even the minimum requirements.”

The Fair Housing Justice Center, a leading fair housing organization based in Long Island City, added that the city’s policies and programs “perpetuate barriers to housing choice and impede progress towards creating open, accessible and inclusive communities.”

In the lawsuit challenging the city’s “community preference” in affordable housing lotteries, a policy that denies New Yorkers living outside of a given community district the chance to compete on a level playing field and also perpetuates segregated residential patterns, the city has bizarrely claimed that fear of and resistance to neighborhood racial change “is not and was not a ‘common phenomenon’ in New York City.”

In what universe? This kind of denial of historical fact can only be described as…Trumpian.

The city, one should note, is neither an outlier nor the only offender in the region. In Westchester, still subject to a 2009 housing desegregation consent decree that arose out of its having falsely claimed that it was affirmatively furthering fair housing, the current county executive, George Latimer, talks a good game: “We do not want to live in a segregated Westchester County,” he says.

He adds, “Without strong laws like AFFH in place, Westchester County will fail to be the diverse, multifaceted county we all want to call home.”

Is taking real action to end housing segregation too much even in deep blue New York?

As a start, I’d like to hear Mayor de Blasio say without qualification that all of our neighborhoods belong to all of us. I’d like to hear Latimer acknowledge that the “pretty please” method does not get towns and villages to make real and substantial changes on the ground.

I’m not holding my breath.

Gurian is executive director of the Anti-Discrimination Center and lead counsel in the challenge to the city’s housing lottery policy.