HUD chief grilled over housing discrimination rule

HUD chief grilled over housing discrimination rule
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Housing Secretary Julián Castro on Thursday defended a new rule aimed at diversifying America's wealthier neighborhoods, during a congressional hearing with lawmakers who were far from sold on the idea.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is looking to end decades of deep-rooted segregation around the country, but Republicans are skeptical about the upcoming housing regulations, and some suggested the Obama administration is trying to create an "unrealistic utopia."

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"It’s not just about affordable housing, it’s about good transit; it’s about access to good schools; it’s about all that," Castro told the lawmakers.

The regulations would use grant money as an incentive for communities to build affordable housing in more affluent areas, while also taking steps to upgrade poorer areas with better schools, parks, libraries, grocery stores and transportation routes as part of a gentrification of those communities.

"I want to know some quick examples you have where the federal government has actually been able to diversify areas or end poverty in local areas where the local municipalities could not do that," said Rep. Mia Love (Utah), the first black female Republican in Congress.

During her line of a questioning, Love referenced a story in The Hill about the so-called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule. She expressed concerns that the initiative would take local housing decisions out of the hands of those communities.

"I know that, as a mayor, you wouldn’t want the federal government coming in to tell you what to do with your zoning laws or with your rules, because you have more skin in the game; you have more of an incentive to take care of the people that live in your areas," Love told Castro, who served three terms as mayor of San Antonio.

Castro responded: "This is not about changing zoning laws, planning laws, anything like that."