U.S. issues new rule to promote racial integration in housing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Wednesday issued a new rule requiring cities to look for racial bias in their housing practices as part of a push to make neighborhoods more racially integrated.

The rule, announced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 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.

The Washington Post said cities and towns now would 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.

"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."

The Post said the rule, 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 could not be limited to questions of intent.

(Writing by Bill Trott; Editing by Lisa Lambert and Paul Simao)