The connection between the president’s denigration of low-income housing and racial segregation was not lost on his critics.
President Donald Trump is pining for support in the suburbs, and pushing out low-income housing is playing a part in his bid to get it.
In a set of tweets and in remarks in Texas on Wednesday, Trump bragged about his administration’s rescinding an Obama-era fair housing rule that was meant to combat housing discrimination. He characterized low-income housing as a detriment to the suburbs and claimed that Democrats were out to uproot and destroy suburbia — a cultural sphere that he equated to the American dream.
“You know the suburbs, people fight all of their lives to get into the suburbs and have a beautiful home,” Trump said during a talk in Midland, Texas. “There will be no more low-income housing forced into the suburbs. … It’s been going on for years. I’ve seen conflict for years. It’s been hell for suburbia.”
His comments were an echo of his tweets earlier in the day, in which he said suburbanites would “no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood.”
The division between urban and suburban America is closely tied to the country’s history of racial segregation. Even long after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, numerous studies and reports have revealed a long line of policies that have kept Black people out of white suburbs, as well as other forms of housing discrimination.
The connection between Trump’s aspersion on low-income housing in suburbs and racial segregation was not lost on his critics.
“Oh my. I mean, it’s not even a dog whistle anymore,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) wrote on Twitter. “Our President is now a proud, vocal segregationist.”
Adrianne Todman, CEO of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, said Trump’s remarks were a deep insult to those who live in, work in and build low-income housing. She stressed that those who live in low-income housing offer valuable contributions to all communities.
“If you are a person of modest means, know that your value is not derived by how much money you make, but by who you are,” Todman said in a statement to POLITICO on Wednesday.
The 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule that the Trump administration dismantled required local governments to proactively ensure fair housing in order to receive federal housing funding. It was designed to give more teeth to the Fair Housing Act in combating segregation, and was praised by civil rights groups at the time. Conservative critics and the Trump administration opposed the parameters, saying they were unnecessarily laborious.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced a replacement policy last week that essentially leaves localities to self-certify that housing is affordable and free of discrimination — a significant scale-down of the Obama-era rule.
“After reviewing thousands of comments on the proposed changes to the [AFFH] regulation, we found it to be unworkable and ultimately a waste of time for localities to comply with, too often resulting in funds being steered away from communities that need them most,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said last week.
The administration justified the move at the time as alleviating undue burdens on local governments. But Trump’s comments on Wednesday made it clear that he was motivated by a drive to keep poor people out of suburban areas. He tweeted that rescinding the rule would mean “housing prices will go up based on the market, and crime will go down.”
Supporters of the Obama-era rule found that the new HUD guidelines leave practically no incentive to combat housing segregation. Former Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro, who served as HUD secretary under Obama when the 2015 AFFH rule was created, shot back at Trump, tweeting: “Just because people are poor doesn’t mean they’re bad. That’s obvious to most, but not to bigots like” Trump.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called Trump’s remarks “disgusting,” saying the president is “actively working to gut fair housing laws and legalize housing discrimination.”
“EVERY American deserves access to the American dream. We will fight this,” Schumer wrote on Twitter.
Trump’s attention on the suburbs has been growing ahead of the November presidential election, portraying his opponent, Joe Biden, and other Democrats as out to “abolish” suburbs. Trump tweeted on Thursday to “The Suburban Housewives of America” that “Biden will destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream. I will preserve it, and make it even better!”
Still, Trump’s call-out toward suburbanites doesn’t appear to be driving up his appeal. Polls have Trump trailing Biden in the suburbs by large margins, and suburban areas largely carried Democrats to a majority in the House in 2018.
News – Trump boasts of pushing low-income housing out of suburbs