Hugh Bailey: Joe Biden is coming for your suburb. Good.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge tours apartments with other officials in San Francisco in 2021.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge tours apartments with other officials in San Francisco in 2021.

Jessica Christian, Staff / The Chronicle

Connecticut’s General Assembly may or may not do much about housing this session. It should be the top priority, but suburban preferences continue to hold sway. The governor, as usual, is no help at all.

Towns might be forced to act anyway.

This won’t happen of their own accord, as ought to be clear by now. Suburbs, especially the wealthiest and most segregated, fight even the smallest changes to the status quo on housing. They take every minor step forward as evidence they should never again be bothered to consider the question. Their inaction hurts the Connecticut economy, in addition to its less-widely-discussed moral repugnance.

But there is hope for change at the federal level.

The rule in question is not new — it dates to the 1968 federal Fair Housing Act signed in the aftermath of Martin Luther King’s assassination. That law made it federal policy that jurisdictions weren’t required simply to stop segregating, but instead had to actively move toward integration; thus the phrase “affirmatively furthering fair housing.”

Though it was signed into law more than a half-century ago, enforcement has been scant. It took until late in the Obama administration, in 2015, before the federal government put forward rules to ensure the law was followed. Among other things, it required that any state or town that received federal housing money examine its own barriers to fair housing and enact a plan to overcome them.

Before much could happen, a new administration — one elected in large part on racial resentment — put a stop to all that.

Donald Trump said Obama’s housing rules were going to “ abolish the suburbs ” and rescinded his policy change. There are a lot of anti-development types in Connecticut who would probably be embarrassed to admit they see eye-to-eye with the 45th president, but their rhetoric is not dissimilar. Just as his remarks were based on barely concealed racism, so, too, are many of those carrying out his anti-housing legacy in Connecticut.

Once he took office, Joe Biden quickly rescinded Trump’s move, and recently went further. Under a new proposed federal action, communities would have to detail how they are addressing housing discrimination and act on those plans or face a loss of federal housing dollars. This is a significant step.

“We are done with communities that do not serve people,” Housing Secretary Marcia Fudge said in announcing the proposed rule . “We are going to hold responsible those that we give resources to. We no longer as a federal government can continue to fail the very people we need to help.”

It might be argued this is 50 years too late. There is skepticism over enforcement, or on whether the wealthiest communities would even be bothered by whatever loss of funds might be on the table.

The state of Connecticut, though, is another story.

State government acted under previous Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, including by creating the Department of Housing as a standalone agency. That department produced a document called “ Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice ” that sums up the state’s long history of segregation and the challenges to overcoming it.

“Decades of public and private policies and practices have resulted in high levels of segregation within many Connecticut communities,” the report reads, continuing: “(I)t is clear that affordable housing policy is critical to ensuring a promising future for every resident of Connecticut and the state itself.”

Malloy, a former Stamford mayor, got it.

His successor? Ned Lamont is from Greenwich, and is not a former mayor. Even as the problem of affordable housing has grown significantly under his leadership (as has happened around the country), he has done almost nothing to take on this challenge.

If the federal government were to start withholding some funds, maybe that would change.

It’s possible something gets done in the General Assembly. Momentum is growing in that direction, but with every opponent reacting to even mild proposals with five-alarm meltdowns, it’s unclear if anything substantial will pass. It’s still early in the session.

A federal government that means what it says on fair housing could change that equation. Connecticut and the Northeast are major problem areas, as the state’s own housing report states clearly: “By any measure, Connecticut is highly racially and ethnically segregated,” it reads. “Two of every three persons of color in Connecticut live in just 15 of the state’s 169 municipalities.”

A federal crackdown on housing discrimination wouldn’t be focused on Alabama or South Carolina. It might, instead, take aim at Fairfield County.

There’s a long way to go before that. The federal rule hasn’t even been officially enacted, and who knows who will be in the White House in 2025. It might even be the “abolish the suburbs” guy.

Still, it behooves Connecticut to take this seriously.

As the proposed federal rule change states, “Where children live and grow up is inextricably linked to their level of educational attainment, their relationship with policing and the criminal justice system, what jobs they can obtain as adults, how much wealth their family can attain, whether they will someday purchase their own home, whether they will face chronic health conditions or other lifelong obstacles, and ultimately the opportunities they will be able to provide for their own children and grandchildren.”

We as a state must do more to open those opportunities for everyone.

Hugh Bailey is editorial page editor of the Connecticut Post and New Haven Register. He can be reached at