Opinion: HUD Secretary on How to Make Fair Housing a Reality

Editor’s note: Secretary Marcia L. Fudge is the 18th Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The views expressed in this review are her own. See more opinions on CNN.


Martin Luther King. Did not live to see the Fair Housing Act become law, but its passage is an important part of his legacy.

Secretary Marcia Fudge

The Freedom Movement in Chicago, which King helped lead, directly confronted racist policies that prevented black families from obtaining desirable housing in white neighborhoods, pushed hardworking blacks into substandard homes and ghettos, and trapped them in seemingly never-ending cycle of poverty.

The work of the freedom movement, and the advocacy of countless others in the civil rights movement, did not materialize until the Civil Rights Act of 1968 — better known as the Fair Housing Act — was signed into law a week after King became president. Assassination.

“Now, with this bill, the voice of justice has spoken again. It declares that fair housing for all — for all who live in this country — is now part of the American way of life,” President Lyndon Johnson said at the time.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on an individual’s race, color, national origin, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), religion, disability, and familial status.

In addition, the Fair Housing Act directs the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to fulfill one of our most important responsibilities: administering our programs and activities in a manner that affirmatively promotes fair housing.

Courts have long held that the order requires HUD and those who receive our funding to take proactive and meaningful action to overcome patterns of segregation, promote fair housing choice, eliminate disparities in housing-related opportunity, and foster inclusion at no cost Community comes from discrimination.

However, for most of the history of the Fair Housing Act, HUD has failed to fully enforce this requirement. It finally took a key step in that direction, with the 2015 rule on affirmative promotion of fair housing that established guidelines for state and local governments that receive HUD fair housing funding.

However, the rule barely came into effect until the summer of 2020, when the previous administration terminated it.

The ugly practice of housing discrimination has always existed. All too often, people with disabilities are denied reasonable accommodations or are forced to pay extra to rent. Hard-working families can’t buy homes because of the color of their skin.

After decades of inequality—often facilitated by federal funds—too many people lack real housing options and the ability to access the opportunities that will allow them to succeed and prosper.

Under the leadership of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, HUD is taking bold action to deliver on the full promise of the Fair Housing Act and live up to King’s legacy. Soon, HUD will issue a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Concerning Aggressively Advancing Fair Housing,” which builds on the success of the 2015 rule and proposes improvements to make it stronger, based on a deliberate and thoughtful participatory process.

The proposed rule would have even greater impact, requiring local governments and other recipients of HUD funding to set ambitious goals not only to combat and reject all forms of housing discrimination, but also to recognize and correct persistent inequalities.

It will give state and local leaders the tools and framework they need to advance fair housing. The rule is designed to allow communities to leverage HUD funding with other federal, state, and local resources to develop solutions that meet their own unique needs.

Most importantly, the proposed rule will give the community a role in our ongoing work to ensure fair housing while adding accountability mechanisms to ensure recipients of HUD funds meet their obligations to actively advance fair housing.

When finalized, this rule will be critical to our work to address persistent segregation, divestment of communities of color, and housing market discrimination. At its core, it will allow our country to create more opportunity so all residents can thrive.

To achieve this goal, HUD is seeking public comment. We believe that thoughtful and robust feedback will strengthen our collective work to ensure we can achieve and sustain our commitment to aggressively advance fair housing.

We know we have much more work to do to root out all forms of discrimination and correct the lasting effects of long-standing inequalities in our communities. We are reminded every day that there are still many obstacles in this regard.

King was quoted as saying, “Now is the time to deliver on the promise of democracy. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity for all of God’s children.”

I believe this proposed rule brings us closer to fulfilling the promise of democracy and affirmatively promoting fair housing for all.

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