WASHINGTON — Rep. Maxine Waters, the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, has introduced a bill to reverse or reform recent policies by the Department of Housing and Urban Development that she called "deeply problematic and harmful" for lower-income Americans.

Speaking at a hearing Wednesday with HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Waters said her bill, the Restoring Fair Housing Protections Eliminated by HUD Act of 2018, "responds directly to each action that Secretary Carson has taken to undermine fair housing."

“Congress should not stand by while the agency charged with ensuring fair housing turns its back on its mission and takes actions that roll back critical protections that ensure that all Americans have fair access to housing,” Waters, a California Democrat, said at the committee hearing.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., speaking at a House Financial Services Committee hearing
“Congress should not stand by while the agency charged with ensuring fair housing turns its back on its mission and takes actions that roll back critical protections that ensure that all Americans have fair access to housing,” said Rep. Maxine Waters. Bloomberg News

The legislation would restore language in the department's mission statement referring to building “inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.” According to published reports, a leaked HUD internal memo indicated the department planned to remove that language.

The legislation would also require HUD to review fair housing complaints involving an online platform, and report to Congress an analysis of trends and risks related to discrimination occurring in connection with the use of online platforms. A summary of recent HUD actions released Tuesday referred to reports that HUD was attempting to scale back federal efforts to enforce fair housing laws by freezing enforcement actions against local governments and business, including Facebook.

Under the bill, Carson would also have to reissue a proposal requiring owners and operators of HUD-funded homeless shelters to post a notice informing individuals of their rights under HUD's “Equal Access in Accordance with an Individual’s Gender Identity in Community Planning and Development Programs” rule.

The bill would also require HUD to implement a halted a rule that requires federal agencies and recipients of federal housing funds to take proactive steps to further fair housing policies.

In his opening statement for the hearing, Carson said HUD remains committed to fair housing policies.

"As we continue our celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, HUD will rigorously protect people from discrimination, regardless of their color, race, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or family status," Carson said.

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