By Alexander Bolton - 07/11/15 06:00 AM EDT
Obama touts plan to press communities to integrate
President Obama on Saturday said it’s time for the federal government to press local communities to integrate low-income minorities to affluent areas.
Specifically, he’s calling for more stringent enforcement of the Fair Housing Act, a law passed as part of Lyndon Johnson’s sweeping Great Society initiative, to combat poverty and inequality in the United States.
The law has been sporadically enforced since it’s passage nearly 50 years ago.
Obama says its time to change that, and his administration is moving forward with a new rule to require communities to regularly review the racial and socio-economic makeup of neighborhoods and regularly report the results.
The thinking behind it is that local governments will come under pressure to adopt policies to mix the compositions of neighborhoods when stark differences emerge.
“In some cities, kids living just blocks apart lead incredibly different lives. They go to different schools, play in different parks, shop in different stores, and walk down different streets,” Obama said in his weekly Saturday address.
“And often, the quality of those schools and the safety of those parks and streets are far from equal – which means those kids aren’t getting an equal shot in life,” he added.
Obama noted the Supreme Court ruled last month that housing discrimination is illegal even if it’s unintentional.
“This week, my administration announced that we’ll make it easier for communities to implement this law. We’re using data on housing and neighborhood conditions to help cities identify the areas that need the most help,” he said.
He argued that by making housing data public, average citizens can weigh in on urban planning questions such as the placement of affordable housing and even bus stops.
He said new regulations will “help make our communities stronger and more vibrant.”
“And they’ll help keep this a country where kids from every background can grow up knowing that no matter who you are, what you look like, or where you live, you can write your own story,” he said.
Obama spoke out after anti-police riots in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore about the need to address what he referred to as the root cause of tension between cops and residents of poor neighborhoods: frustration over poverty and lack of opportunity.
“The rule that was announced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development is an example of the kind of rule that will make it more likely that every American has access to quality, affordable housing in this country,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday.
He said it is a priority of the administration to make sure every child has similar access to economic opportunity.
“That certainly was part of the thinking behind advancing the housing rule, and I’m confident that that priority will influence additional decisions and announcements made by the administration over the next 18 months or so,” he added.
Already some congressional Republicans are weighing strategies to defund the new rule, viewing it as the latest example of federal overreach under Obama’s leadership.
“Local government is designed so people can have an input on those things that matter most to them,” said Rick Manning, the president of Americans for Limited Government, told CNN in an interview. “The federal government is ill-equipped to superimpose their vision of what local communities should look like, because they don’t have their fingers on the pulse of those communities.”