President Donald Trump says he’s the candidate who’s protecting “suburban housewives” from low-income housing that could “invade” their neighborhoods.
In a Wednesday tweet, Trump bragged about eliminating a regulation that was designed to address racial segregation, and suggested that Sen. Corey Booker, a Black man, would somehow restore that rule if Joe Biden were elected president. Biden has not yet announced who he might pick for the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, if elected.
“The ‘suburban housewife’ will be voting for me,” Trump said in the tweet. “They want safety & are thrilled that I ended the long running program where low income housing would invade their neighborhood. Biden would reinstall it, in a bigger form, with Corey Booker in charge!”
Critics have described Trump’s repeated assertion that America’s suburbs are under attack — besieged by crime, affordable housing proposals, or both — as a blatantly racist, misguided play for the suburban voters he’s polling poorly with.
And a June poll from NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist showed 66% of suburban women disapproved of Trump’s job performance.
Yet part of Trump’s aggressive campaign to curry suburban favor has been attacking an Obama-era fair housing regulation, claiming in a June 30 tweet that it was having a “devastating impact on these once thriving suburban areas,” particularly among homeowners.
Black homeownership rates, meanwhile, have slipped to levels not seen since the 1960s, according to the Urban Institute.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced in July that it would officially terminate the 2015 regulation, called the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which HUD described in a statement as “complicated, costly, and ineffective” for communities.
The rule, which the Trump administration complained about and sought to block for years, required that communities receiving federal housing dollars analyze patterns of discrimination and fair housing issues and create plans to address them. It was meant to build upon the 1968 Fair Housing Act.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement announcing the rule’s end that there were other, less onerous ways to advance fair housing, including through Opportunity Zone initiatives. Trump gloated about the change last month, saying the rule had made life “hell for suburbia.”
Housing advocates and civil rights lawyers warned, however, that gutting the regulation would strip the nation of a valuable plan to dismantle the sort of segregation that has plagued communities of color for decades, leading to chronic disinvestment. Biden’s housing platform includes implementing the fair housing rule in earnest, among other proposals.
"The President's attacks on the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule are deeply racist,” Shamus Roller, executive director of the National Housing Law Project, said in a statement last month, when the administration announced the rule’s end. “The AFFH rule was functionally eliminated in 2017 so the administration's focus on it now is clearly a political stunt to stoke racial animus before the election. To say that a rule that requires cities to analyze segregation would 'destroy the suburbs' is as close as you can get to an endorsement of racial segregation without actually saying the words.”
Meanwhile, addressing the country’s shortage of deeply affordable housing — which has primarily burdened Black and brown renters — was a key pillar of many Democratic candidates’ platforms, including Sen. Kamala Harris’. Harris, now Biden’s pick for vice president, also introduced legislation last year that sought to invest more than $100 billion in affordable housing.
Cover: President Donald Trump talks with reporters before departing from Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, N.J., Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020. Trump was returning to Washington after spending the weekend at Trump National Golf Club. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)