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By Suzy Khimm

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is taking new steps to roll back an Obama-era rule intended to combat housing segregation.

On Monday, the Trump administration formally began the process of revamping a 2015 rule that required cities and towns to examine historic patterns of segregation and create plans to combat it, or lose federal funding.

The administration argued that the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule hinders the development of affordable housing.

The current rule is "suffocating investment in some of our most distressed neighborhoods that need our investment the most," Carson said in a statement. "We do not have to abandon communities in need."

Sara Pratt, a former Obama official who helped develop the rule, said that the Trump administration's moves would enable communities to ignore long-standing barriers to fair housing and integration.

"You're going back to communities willfully blinding themselves to patterns of segregation," said Pratt, whose law firm is representing a coalition of groups suing the Trump administration for its earlier efforts to suspend the rule. "Without this rule, communities will not do the work to eliminate discrimination and segregation."

The Trump administration said it would instead focus on increasing the supply of affordable housing across the country. Carson told The Wall Street Journal that he would "encourage the development of mixed-income multifamily dwellings all over the place" by making HUD money contingent on looser zoning rules.

Conservatives had vocally opposed the original rule by arguing that it was "an attempt to extort communities into giving up control of local zoning decisions," according to Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.. Despite Carson's stated interest in using federal funds to shape local zoning policies, they praised the Trump administration for taking the next big step in undoing the original rule.

"Secretary Carson’s work to rollback Obama's overreaching housing rule is a great step in the right direction," Gosar said in a statement. "I look forward to seeing HUD completely rescind the utopian Obama regulation."