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July 08, 2015

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New fed rules will require Philly to probe racial bias in selling or renting home

The Obama administration on Wednesday has announced new rules requiring cities to look for racial bias in housing practices in order to promote racially integrated neighborhoods.

The rules would further the work of the landmark 1968 Fair Housing Act, which made it illegal to refuse to sell or rent a home to a person based on race, religion, gender or national origin. Julian Castro, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, announced the new rules. 

"Unfortunately, too many Americans find their dreams limited by where they come from, and a ZIP code should never determine a child's future," HUD Secretary Julian Castro said in a statement.

"This important step will give local leaders the tools they need to provide all Americans with access to safe, affordable housing in communities that are rich with opportunity."

Cities and towns would now be required to look for patterns of racial bias in local housing, report the results every three to five years and set goals on how to reduce segregation in housing.

The Philadelphia metro region ranks among the most segregated in the United States, according to research conducted by the University of Minnesota. Philadelphia had the second-highest number of Racially Concentrated Areas of Affluence and the fourth-highest number of Racially Concentrated Areas of Poverty among 15 cities studied.

Philadelphia is committed to creating "inclusive, sustainable communities," said Paul D. Chrystie, director of communications for the Office of Housing and Community Development. 

"To achieve this goal it has directed its federal and local housing funds so as to introduce middle-income housing into struggling neighborhoods and affordable housing into better-off neighborhoods," Chrystie said. "By doing so the city is creating communities that are welcoming to all Philadelphians regardless of race."

Philadelphia also has the fourth largest public housing authority in the country. Operating on a $371 million budget, the Philadelphia Housing Authority provides 81,000 people with affordable housing across more than 4,000 sites.

According to the Washington Post, the rules, sought by civil rights organizations, will show when communities flout housing law and will allow HUD to withhold federal funding in flagrant cases.

In June the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that supported the Fair Housing Act by saying discrimination in housing cases cannot be limited to questions of intent.