As the incoming Trump Administration takes shape, there appears to be significant potential for changes to current fair housing policies. The Obama Administration has aggressively pursued increases in fair housing protections and enforcement practices, including the expanded use of disparate impact theory, limitations on criminal screening and resident-friendly reasonable accommodation recommendations. However, the President-elect has not signaled a continuation of these priorities.
Moreover, both of the President-elect’s Cabinet selections with direct responsibilities over this area have been critical of fair housing initiatives. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) share enforcement responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), nominated for Attorney General, co-sponsored legislation to block Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing efforts that were designed to promote fair housing through zoning and an expansion of Section 8 housing. Dr. Ben Carson, the HUD nominee, has previously criticized fair housing efforts.
Regardless of changes at the federal level, housing providers will continue to face fair housing liability concerns stemming from private-actor lawsuits. NMHC/NAA have produced a number of resources to help apartment firms understand the latest developments in fair housing, including disparate impact, family state discrimination and criminal screening, and will continue to advocate for policies that balance fair housing responsibilities with legitimate business necessities.
While it’s unclear what the next Administration’s fair housing policy will look like, NMHC/NAA will work with the Agencies and Congress to improve the business environment, which could include rollbacks of Obama-era regulations, more permissive guidance for housing providers and jurisdictions and a re-prioritization of agency enforcement resources to other areas.