Donald Trump’s latest effort to consolidate the racist vote (as if he doesn’t already have that locked down) is a renewed threat to an Obama-era fair housing regulation already delayed and amended by his administration. The racist dog whistle couldn’t have been clearer.
“At the request of many great Americans who live in the Suburbs, and others, I am studying the AFFH housing regulation that is having a devastating impact on these once thriving Suburban areas,” Trump tweeted. “Corrupt Joe Biden wants to make them MUCH WORSE. Not fair to homeowners, I may END!”
To Trump, “suburbs” and “homeowners” clearly means “white.” In reality there are lots of people of color and immigrants in suburbs, and many people of color are homeowners as well. But the fact that there remains substantial inequality, that a politician can say “suburbs” and “homeowners” and expect to be heard to be talking about white people, is in very large part because of the kind of racist housing policies that the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule is aimed at rolling back.
The Obama administration created the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule to try to finally enforce the 1968 Fair Housing Act’s requirement that “All executive departments and agencies shall administer their programs and activities relating to housing and urban development (including any Federal agency having regulatory or supervisory authority over financial institutions) in a manner affirmatively to further the purposes of” the law. At the time the Obama administration released its policy, then-HUD Secretary Julián Castro said “the fact is that federal efforts have often fallen short” on enforcement. That effort to enforce a 50-year-old law and to ensure that “A ZIP code should never prevent any person from reaching their aspirations,” as Castro said at the time, is what Trump is so exercised about.
The Obama policy was targeting cases like one, reported by NBC News, in which a majority Black unincorporated community was denied public water service for decades, while “Federal funds helped build water lines around the town, forcing residents to retrieve water from nearby Zanesville, or collect rainwater and store it in containers, risking contamination.”
When Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson released a proposal to gut the AFFH, back in January, Lisa Rice, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance, said “It significantly weakens fair housing compliance, entrenches segregated housing patterns, and continues the status quo in which some communities are strengthened by taxpayer-supported programs and amenities while other neighborhoods are starved and deprived of opportunities.”
The Trump-Carson HUD did propose basically ending the AFFH back in January, so Trump’s tweet about it is not something particularly new on a policy level—it’s just a new, presidential blast of the dog whistle. “We finalized the AFFH rule at HUD to guarantee the promise of fair housing for every American,” Castro responded. “@JoeBiden will fulfill that promise. @realDonaldTrump will further divide our country.”