On Wednesday, February 5, the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held a hearing titled “A Threat to America’s Children: The Trump Administration’s Proposal to Gut Fair Housing Accountability.” The hearing focused on how the Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD) released a proposed rule that would essentially roll back fair housing enforcement and reinterpret the Obama Administration’s Affirmatively Furthering Housing
(AFFH) rule.

Chairman Jamie Raskin (MD) opened with a statement addressing that “many people think that residential segregation just happened in America, but it didn’t. The federal government, along with state and county governments, were integrally involved in the process.” By not providing resources for impoverished communities and equal opportunities to affordable housing can “trap children in a cycle of poverty, stifling their growth and constricting their mobility and opportunities in life.” The Obama Administration enforced the 1968 remedy that remained dormant for almost half a century, to desegregate communities and work towards fair housing for all. However, the Trump Administration is looking to return to the “segregationist housing policies that failed the American Dream for 50 years.” Chairman Raskin encouraged Congress to push back against this rollback. Committee member, Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), reinforced that Congress’s job is to “protect all children from harmful regulations and ensure they have the resources to reach their full potential.”

Four witnesses gave testimony: Ateira Griffin, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of BOND, Inc, Ellen Lee, Director of Community and Economic Development for the City of New Orleans, Megan Sandel, Principal Investigator, Children’s Healthwatch, and MD at Boston Medical Center, and Jorge Andres Soto, Director of Public Policy for the National Fair
Housing Alliance.

The witnesses emphasized the scientific evidence and research on how living in affordable housing provides better health, social, and educational outcomes for children. Ellen Lee asserted the positive experiences and outcomes that the city of New Orleans received from the 2015 AFFH rule, stating that it “is equally important that we invest in affordable housing as where we invest in affordable housing,” and “research tells us how place matters.” She provided factual data on long-term successful children outcomes. Ateira Griffin also provided a personal anecdote of her own experiences of how black communities and communities of color thrived only due to the white concentrations of wealth surrounding these impoverished neighborhoods. Further, she stresses the importance of “intentional investment.”

Chairman Raskin questioned Lee if the public participation requirement worked to the advantage or disadvantage of the city of New Orleans. She stated that it greatly benefited their city and that they “got perspectives from people living in neighborhoods that we would not have otherwise have had.” All the witnesses and committee members that spoke agreed that America needs affordable housing opportunities for all to ensure our children a better future. Committee member, Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) stated: “How HUD is currently conducting itself, is completely contradictory to its mission.”