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State asks public to complete fair housing surveys

The state is conducting surveys every three to

The state is conducting surveys every three to five years to examine segregated living patterns and housing disparities. Credit: Newsday/John Keating

New York State is asking the public to complete surveys under a statewide effort to examine segregated living patterns and housing disparities, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office announced Monday.

The move comes after President Donald Trump tweeted last month that he is considering further scaling back the mandates of an Obama-era program requiring similar data collection nationwide.

Under Cuomo’s “Fair Housing Matters NY” program, the state is conducting such surveys every three to five years, similar to what was required under the Obama-era housing rule.

Advocates say such regulation is necessary to pressure localities to end residential discrimination and segregation, pursuant to the 1968 Fair Housing Act. The Trump administration has said the regulation is “overly burdensome to both” the federal government and localities and “ineffective in helping” compliance.

A 2019 investigation by Newsday found evidence of widespread separate and unequal treatment of minority prospective homebuyers on Long Island.

“Investigations like Newsday’s Long Island Divided series shows that there’s still barriers to fair housing,” said Cuomo spokesman Jack Sterne. “New Yorkers know that data drives results, and that’s why the governor directed HCR (the Division of Housing and Community Renewal)... to undertake this assessment regardless of any relaxed federal requirements.”

Sterne said the surveys are voluntary.

At issue is a 2015 regulation called the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, which was promulgated under the Obama presidency, requiring localities that receive federal housing funding to do an extensive “assessment” of impediments to fair housing and detail how to overcome those impediments.

On June 30, Trump tweeted: “At the request of many great Americans who live in the Suburbs, and others, I am studying the AFFH housing regulation that is having a devastating impact on these once thriving suburban areas. Corrupt Joe Biden wants to make them MUCH WORSE. Not fair to homeowners, I may END!”

Trump’s tweet, suggesting that Obama-era policy could be scrapped entirely, would be a departure from even a draft regulation, announced in January by Trump’s housing secretary, Ben Carson, that fair-housing advocates had criticized as insufficient. The draft proposed narrowing the paperwork required under AFFH but nevertheless retained its goals in principle.

“HUD recognizes that its program participants have a duty to affirmatively further fair housing,” the proposed rule said.

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