The Housing and Urban Development Department and the nation's real estate brokers show no signs of reaching an agreement over maintenance of fair housing and integration, and whether one constitutes the other.
W. Scott Davis, general deputy assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, spent a grueling morning last weekend being pursued by members of the National Association of Realtors, demanding to know federal policy.
"We need to know if the law requires color-blind marketing or if the marketing of houses should be based on percentages or quotas set by local communities," said NAR attorney William D. Butters. "We can't be sued on Monday and Wednesday for steering and on Tuesday for blockbusting."
"We can live with either regime, but we need to know," said Butters. "Somebody better define integration and what unit we are going to use to measure it, by city block, neighborhood, county or state."
Davis, at the NAR meeting in Honolulu, said that HUD is trying to develop a fair housing policy for federally assisted housing and that it "could be useful to Realtors working in the private market." But he said the department hasn't worked it out yet.
Davis ought to know. He proposed one over the summer and was sheared off at the ankles by HUD General Counsel John J. Knapp.
Davis' draft said HUD "does not support and will not fund programs described as integration maintenance or integration management." Assistant secretaries in the department would have been asked to "review funding, subsidy and guarantees being provided housing firms to assure that participants and recipients of HUD program benefits are not inadvertently providing support for private efforts or activities which deny housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin to persons residing in the United States."
Knapp in the Aug. 3 reply to Davis admitted that "up until now the department has ducked facing up to" the issue, but it "is too difficult . . . to admit of being disposed of by a simplistic memorandum."
He added that the proposed policy, to the extent that it referred to "the 'integration maintenance' controversy regarding homeownership patterns in suburban communities," suggests "a conclusion which, by its simplistic dismissal of any particularized inquiry, undercuts and even contradicts" views expressed by HUD Secretary Samuel R. Pierce Jr.
Knapp concluded that "for a while further at least, our policy is better developed on a case basis."
A senior HUD official here complained yesterday that the Realtors' intransigence on the issue is contributing to the difficulties in formulating a policy. And Knapp himself said that when Realtors ask for a policy on integration maintenance, "What does that mean? I have a lot of trouble getting them to define what they are talking about."
EXCEPTIONS . . . With some fanfare this summer, the Office of Management and Budget came forth with the first comprehensive review of government credit policies since the 1960s. Known as Circular A-70, the new document called for agencies to justify every program that provides or guarantees credit. It set the various beneficiaries of these programs scrambling to protect their interests, and the first winner in the exception sweepstakes appears to be housing.
HUD Undersecretary Philip Abrams told 25,000 Realtors gathered in Honolulu this week that the government-backed home-loan programs would be protected from scrutiny under A-70.
"The single-family FHA program has never cost the taxpayers anything, and we at HUD are not asked to justify it under the circular's directive," he said.
Abrams said the multi-family FHA programs would be safe from alteration or abolition as well.