Six days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President Lyndon Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law. April 11, 2018, marked the 50th Anniversary of that landmark piece of legislation and it is front and center again, today.
Enacting a law is only the first step towards really making a change. The actual implementation and enforcement of a law is a complicated and multi-faceted process that is subject to the internal politics and procedures of the agency assigned to administer it. This paradox delayed a vital part of the Fair Housing Act requiring the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to end housing discrimination through a mandate to actively create integrated communities. Historically, the federal government has never dealt smoothly with this process. In fact, there was so much resistance to this policy, then-President Nixon asked former HUD Secretary George Romney to resign simply because he tried to implement it.
After nearly half a century, the Supreme Court, in 2015, ruled, in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., that jurisdictions receiving federal funding are required under the law to help create integrated communities. In response to this decision, President Obama instructed HUD to draft federal guidelines known as the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing final rule (AFFH) which required communities to develop plans for fair housing. Unfortunately, in January of this year, the Trump administration suspended AFFH.
Los Angeles County has decided that President Trump’s actions to undermine efforts to desegregate our communities will not go unanswered. If the Trump administration wants to turn the clock back to the era where the government was actively resisting efforts to integrate our communities, the County can still act to embrace our responsibility under the Fair Housing Act to affirmatively further fair housing. This is precisely what the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors did on April 24, 2018, in directing the County’s Community Development Commission to report back to the Board in 90 days with recommendations and any funding needed to develop a robust plan to affirmatively further fair housing in the County.
In the spirit of promoting creative thinking to solve problems, the Board of Supervisors has acted on its responsibility to serve its diverse constituency by doing the work the Trump administration has failed to do. As the most populated county in the United States, Los Angeles County can help lead the way in the fight for fair housing, regardless of any attempts to undermine community integration or sow division between Americans.