President Barack Obama’s administration showed Tuesday that he wants to pressure landlords to ignore the criminal records of would-be renters.
One inevitable result is that many law-abiding renters — including many African-Americans — will be forced to unknowingly live alongside felons they wish to avoid.
According to Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the “disparate impact” theory of racism says landlords are racists if they have a color-blind practice of excluding all felons from their buildings. That color-bind practice is racist, say progressives, because it has a greater impact on African-Americans than on whites.
It has a greater impact on African-Americans because blacks tend to commit crimes at a higher rate than whites, according to federal data.
HUD said in its new guidelines released this week:
The Fair Housing Act prohibits both intentional housing discrimination and housing practices that have an unjustified discriminatory effect because of race, national origin, or other protected characteristics. Because of widespread racial and ethnic disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system, criminal history-based restrictions on access to housing are likely disproportionately to burden African-Americans and Hispanics. While the Act does not prohibit housing providers from appropriately considering criminal history information when making housing decisions, arbitrary and overbroad criminal history-related bans are likely to lack a legally sufficient justification.
On Monday, HUD Secretary Julian Castro addressed the annual meeting of the National Low Income Housing Coalition and spoke of the new rules.
“The fact that you were arrested shouldn’t keep you from getting a job and it shouldn’t keep you from renting a home. When someone has been convicted of a crime and has paid their debt to society, then they ought to have an effective second chance at life. The ability to find housing is an indispensable second chance in life,” Castro said.
Current rules do not prevent landlords from denying potential renters based on criminal records, but rules do note landlords must be “thoughtful” when considering the criminal history of a possible tenant.
However, the new rules will pressure landlords from even inquiring about a possible renter’s criminal history at all, because any inquiring could lead to an expensive and painful federal lawsuit.
One result will be that many law-abiding renters will find themselves living alongside felons.
Also, landlords will seek new practices — such as raising rents — that indirectly exclude criminals from their rentals.
This sort of high-pressure leverage of obscure rules is nothing new in Obama’s Washington.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare could be used as a basis to bring lawsuits for “housing discrimination” against landlords and state agencies. The court’s decision opened the door to more easily bring “racial discrimination” suits against the states, so the administration is using this permission to pressure wealthier communities across the nation to include Section 8-styled housing vouchers in their areas.
This was all part of an effort to force “affordable housing” schemes and “diversity” on every community in the country, by order of Obama’s ever-evolving housing rules.
Subsequently, HUD chief Castro put into a play the “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule” (AFFH) program to give — as National Review’s Stanley Kurtz put it:
…the federal government a lever to re-engineer nearly every American neighborhood. This means the federal government can impose a preferred racial and ethnic composition, or housing density, or transportation plan, and or business-development rules, into every suburb and city around the nation. This new power weakens the authority of local governments over core responsibilities, from zoning to transportation to education.
To show how extreme the policy is, another part of the AFFH set about to re-engineer housing allocations that so drastically shuffled the map that it re-assigned Chicago’s low-income housing to Dubuque, Iowa, in order to force Dubuque to take on more low-income residents. That means establishment Democrats can now transport lower-income blacks from desirable real-estate south of Chicago to nearby towns such as Dubuque.
This isn’t the first time Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development has been in the news. Last year, the Obama administration had a major embarrassment with HUD when it was revealed that the department improperly gave away $37 million in housing subsidies to people who did not qualify for the assistance.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston, or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.