By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
President Donald Trump has rolled back a Barack Obama-era housing rule intended to halt racial segregation and eliminate racial disparities in American suburbs.
Trump announced on Wednesday, July 29, that he officially eliminated the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule that Obama put in place in 2015.
The rule required local governments to identify and address racial segregation patterns outlawed under the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The law tied federal funding to efforts to bridge inequalities.
The AFFH helped low-income and minority households, many of whom now face housing uncertainty because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Some interpret the move as an attempt to stoke fears in Trump’s base, which could drive supporters to the polls in November.
To others, the president is no longer using dog whistles. Instead, it’s apparent he has issued a clarion call for white supremacists and other racists that African Americans and other non-whites represent a danger to suburbia.
That the formal announcement of the rule change came on the day before Obama eulogized Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) in Atlanta, wasn’t lost on many who expressed exasperation with the president.
“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.”
“Vile, despicable, racist,” Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, tweeted about the decision.
“Secretary [Ben] Carson has worked to undermine fair housing since the day he stepped into the HUD building, so this action is not surprising. But it is abhorrent for Trump to use a critical fair housing tool for election year race-baiting, particularly during a time of reckoning for racial injustices,” Yentel said.
Trump called the rule a threat to “the suburban way of life.” “I am happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low-income housing built in your neighborhood,” the president tweeted.
Trump continued to brag about the move during a campaign stop in Midland, Texas. “I ended it two days ago. I signed out the bill. I signed out the article, the rule,” Trump declared. “And it was a bad rule, and it was causing tremendous housing prices going down and crime going up. I ended it. It had been hell for suburbia, now enjoy your life. Now we don’t win the election, that’s going to be reinstituted.”
He continued: “You know the suburbs; people fight all of their lives to get into the suburbs and have a beautiful home. There will be no more low-income housing forced into the suburbs.” Carson added that the AFFH rule was unworkable and “ultimately a waste of time for localities to comply with.”
ABC News reported that Trump is again “counting on the suburban voters he won in 201r – apparent by his repeated false and fear-invoking claims that Democrats want to ‘abolish’ suburbs – but his divisive rhetoric may not be working this time around.”
The network cited a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showing the president trailing Biden in those neighborhoods by 9 percent – the most significant margin in the suburbs that polls had recorded since the 1980s when Republicans were winning there by double digits.
ABC News further reported that a New York Times/Siena College poll from June found 38 percent of voters in the suburbs approve of Trump’s job performance compared with 59 percent who disapprove. The key demographic disapproved of Trump’s handling of recent protests and race relations by an even wider margin, according to the Times.
Meanwhile, The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said the elimination of the Obama-era housing rule would “eviscerate all oversight of state and local government compliance with fair housing laws.”
“It’s a full-frontal assault on the rule of law,” the group wrote. “The civil rights movement will fight this tooth and nail.”