Right-Wing Media Attack HUD Diversity Program: “Tyranny Is Here”

Right-wing media have responded to a proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with a barrage of false attacks and overheated rhetoric. The rule, which attempts to increase minority access to community resources like public transportation and education, has been called an act of “tyranny” designed to “encourage diversity, for diversity's sake.”

HUD Announced A New Rule To Diversify Investment And Access To Community Resources

Housing Secretary Donovan: HUD Is Publishing Census Data On Race For Nation's Neighborhoods To Help “Expand Access To High Opportunity Neighborhoods And Draw Attention To Investment Possibilities In Underserved Communities.” From Sec. Shaun Donovan's July 16 speech before the NAACP (emphasis added):

That's why I am proud to announce that this week we will publish a new rule to bring affirmatively further fair housing into the 21st century. This rule focuses on the traditional tenets of discrimination -- and also gets at the essential issues of access to opportunity so imperative to 21st century equity.

Specifically, this new rule will:

• provide a clear definition of what it means to affirmatively further fair housing;
• outline a standard framework with well-defined parameters; and
• offer targeted guidance and assistance to help grantees complete this assessment.

Perhaps most important -- for the first time ever -- HUD is providing data for every neighborhood in the nation, detailing what access African American families, and other members of protected classes, have to the community assets I talked about earlier -- including jobs, schools and transit.

With this data and the improved AFFH process, we can expand access to high opportunity neighborhoods and draw attention to investment possibilities in underserved communities. [Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan Before the NAACP's 104th Annual Convention, HUD.gov, 7/16/13]

New Rule Aims To Identify Neighborhoods Lacking Access To “Education, Employment, Low-Poverty, Transportation, And Environmental Health.” From HUD's proposed rule:

HUD will provide states, local governments, insular areas, and public housing agencies (PHAs), as well as the communities they serve, with data on patterns of integration and segregation; racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty; access to education, employment, low-poverty, transportation, and environmental health, among other critical assets; disproportionate housing needs based on the classes protected under the Fair Housing Act; data on individuals with disabilities and families with children; and discrimination. From these data, program participants will evaluate their present environment to assess fair housing issues, identify the primary determinants that account for those issues, and set forth fair housing priorities and goals. [Federal Register, 7/19/13]

Fair Housing And Civil Liberties Groups Applaud The Rule

Coalition Of National Civil Rights Organizations Laud The New Rule. A July 19 press release issued jointly by twelve civil rights groups noted the proposed HUD rule “does not create any new obligations for recipients of HUD funding” and would “provide greater clarity and certainty for recipients of HUD funding, the housing industry, and the public at large about what the law means and what they can do.” From the release:

Diverse, inclusive communities with access to good jobs, schools, health care, transportation, and housing are crucial to our nation's prosperity in the 21st century. A hard-learned lesson from the recent economic crisis is that when some of our communities are targeted for discriminatory practices, all of our communities are detrimentally affected. Our global competitiveness is challenged when all of our communities do not have the opportunity to succeed together.

The proposed regulation released by HUD today does not create any new obligations for recipients of HUD funding as this provision of the law has been on the books for 45 years. This regulation gives HUD the opportunity to provide greater clarity and certainty for recipients of HUD funding, the housing industry, and the public at large about what the law means and what they can and must do to help achieve its goals. [NationalFairHousing.org, 7/19/13]

Right-Wing Media Respond To Rule With False Attacks And Zero Context

Fox News' Chris Stirewalt: HUD Rule Is A 'Punishment' Pushing “Diversity, For Diversity's Sake.” On the July 24 edition of Fox News' America Live, Fox figures Shannon Bream and Chris Stirewalt said of the HUD rule:

STIREWALT: This is, if you will, a report card, a scorecard for the administration and for housing regulators to look at how well communities are doing at being integrated. In the old days, the idea was punishing people who excluded minorities from majority white neighborhoods, whether they used now illegal covenants in property transfers, you may not sell to people of this type or that type, or realtors who refused to show certain houses to African-American families. Those things have been illegal since the mid-60s.

This is something different than that. This says they want to encourage diversity -- for diversity's sake, in some cases -- in neighborhoods. So it's not just about punishing people for keeping folks out, it's about punishing people for failing to bring folks in.

BREAM: Okay, so if we see a large concentration of say an all-white neighborhood, the feds now suggesting they want to encourage some diversity there, they want to see different color dots there. But what about in reverse? If we see neighborhoods in which minorities have chosen that they have commonality and that they live together, will they also be pushing those communities to integrate to also be more racially diverse?

STIREWALT: One would think not. [Fox News, America Live, 7/24/13]

Conservative Radio Host Mark Levin: New HUD Rule Is “Tyranny.” On the July 22 edition of Levin's radio show, Levin argued that the HUD rule is a form of “communism” and declared that “tyranny is here.” From The Mark Levin Show:

As you know, as Shaun Donovan, the Secretary of HUD whom I've never heard of before, 'It's a 21st century approach to fair housing.' Sure it is. I think they call it communism.


Folks, I'm trying to tell you something ... It's here. It's here. Tyranny is here. And it's spreading. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Mark Levin Show7/22/13]

Fox News Contributor Katie Pavlich: HUD Rule Is “Social Engineering;” Fair Housing Act “Has Done Nothing For Poor Urban Communities” But “Keep Them Poor.” Pavlich, a Fox News contributor and news editor at Townhall.com, decried the new HUD rule as a “big government” attempt at social engineering. She wrote:

With the recent bankruptcy filing by Detroit, you'd think governments everywhere would take a step back a re-evaluate central planning. Instead, the federal government is doing the opposite through a new social engineering program that will map every community in the country, all in the name of diversity.


The American Dream doesn't exist in big government and bureaucratically bloated cities and communities because it doesn't have an opportunity to exist. This regulation will make it worse. The only thing that public housing has done for poor urban communities in the past 50 years is keep them poor. There's nothing “fair” about it. Bringing new ideas and the free market into communities and neighborhood improves them, not central HUD planning and government funding from Washington. [Townhall.com, 7/23/13]

But Housing Disparity Exists And Has Negative Consequences

HUD Study: Minorities Continue To Face Discrimination When Seeking Housing. A HUD and Urban Institute study published in June 2013 found that "[r]eal estate agents and rental housing providers recommend and show fewer available homes and apartments to minority families, thereby increasing their costs and restricting their housing options." From the study (emphasis original):

Key findings of the report include:

  • Taking into account the ability to make an appointment, the availability of units and homes, and the agent's willingness to show units, minority renters and homebuyers are told about and shown fewer homes and apartments.


  • Black renters who contact agents about recently advertised housing units learn about 11% fewer available units and are shown roughly 4% fewer units.
  • Black homebuyers who contact agents about recently advertised homes for sale learn about 17% fewer available homes and are shown about 18% fewer units.


  • Asian renters who contact agents about recently advertised housing units learn about 10% fewer available units and are shown nearly 7% fewer units.
  • Asian homebuyers who contact agents about recently advertised homes for sale learn about 15% fewer available homes and are shown nearly 19% fewer units.


  • Hispanic renters who contact agents about recently advertised housing units learn about 12% fewer available units and are shown roughly 7% fewer units.
  • The difference in treatment for Hispanic homebuyers is not statistically significant. [HUD.gov, 6/11/13]

The Leadership Conference Education Fund: Segregation “Interferes With Access To Education And Drives Up Nonhousing Costs For The People Whom It Affects.” From a July 2011 study by the Leadership Conference Education Fund:

Segregation and lack of affordable housing result from several government actions and the private decisions that they motivate.

Investments in highways and corridors out of urban cores have encouraged sprawl. They have not been the only drivers: Several federal housing policies and private sector practices, such as redlining by banks and insurance companies and racial steering by the real estate industry, have also enabled sprawl and explicitly excluded people of color.


In short, the real cost of segregation goes beyond living conditions and access to job opportunity. It also interferes with access to education and drives up nonhousing costs for the people whom it affects. [Getting Home: Transportation Equity and Access to Affordable Housing, Leadership Conference Education Fund, July 2011]

Harvard's Raj Chetty: Income-Segregated Neighborhoods Are “Particularly Likely To Have Low Rates Of Upward Mobility.” From a Harvard University study on the impact of tax funds on intergenerational economic mobility: 

[W]e found significant correlations between intergenerational mobility and income inequality, economic and racial residential segregation, measures of K-12 school quality (such as test scores and high school dropout rates), social capital indices, and measures of family structure (such as the fraction of single parents in an area). In particular, areas with a smaller middle class had lower rates of upward mobility. In contrast, a high concentration of income in the top 1% was not highly correlated with mobility patterns. Areas in which low income individuals were residentially segregated from middle income individuals were also particularly likely to have low rates of upward mobility. [The Economic Impacts of Tax Expenditures, Harvard Univ., July 2013]