[Iag-list] US senate bills to prevent federal funding/collection of and access to geospatial information on race/housing inequalities.

Brendan Whyte obiwonfive at hotmail.com
Fri Feb 3 17:28:55 AEDT 2017

Dear all,

Section 3 of bill 103 before the US Senate

and of bill 482 before the US House of Reps.

will be of immense  concern to geographers there and elsewhere

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no Federal funds may be used to design, build, maintain, utilize, or provide access to a Federal  database of geospatial information on community racial disparities or disparities in access to affordable housing."

Comments from US geospatial/map lists include:

"These bills target a new rule and regulation affecting the CDBG program called the Assessment of Fair Housing. Under this new rule HUD grantees must use a HUD developed tool to conduct an analysis  of fair housing data, an assessment of fair housing issues and contributing factors, and an identification of fair housing priorities and goals, and is conducted and submitted to HUD using the Assessment Tool. In the tool, HUD has mapped Racially Concentrated  Areas of Poverty as well as other racial and ethnic living patterns. By focusing the bills on the geospatial information and mapping aspects the bills effectively defund the tool."

"At first blush this sounds somewhat similar to the Dickey Amendment which was 1996 legislation forbidding the CDC from using federal funds for any studies that "advocate or promote gun control."   In that case, special interest groups worked to prevent the CDC from gathering and analyzing data to determine what relationship may exist between gun ownership and gun-related homicides.  The method they used was to prevent the use of federal funds.  If I  am reading this correctly, the wording in this proposed legislation sounds similar in that it appears this is another case where someone doesn't want data collected and analyzed which might then present a position counter to their beliefs and they hope to  end any debate by cutting off federal funding.  Note that this bill was also introduced in 2015 but apparently never made its initial introduction.  There is no summary for the new bill however a summary for the 2015 bill claims this is intended to preserve  local zoning rights for local communities while limiting federal overreach under the "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing" rule as published in the Federal Register on July 16, 2015."

"as you might imagine, this proposed bill has raised a ruckus around the country.  Not as much of a ruckus as some of the other things that are being proposed by the Executive Branch, but a ruckus  nonetheless.  We will find out soon if the bill has legs.  If it does, I'm sure NSGIC and many other organizations will mobilize against the portions you note below.  It is on the agenda of the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO) for discussion at  our meeting in Annapolis in late February.  NSGIC is a member organization of COGO."

"The American Association of Geographers has already written and sent a letter to the sponsor and others opposing it.

Given racial disparities and access to affordable housing are hot issues here, should IAG perhaps write to the bills' sponsors in support of the AAG?

Brendan Whyte

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