Trump and Carson fuel suburban fears about low-income renters - Affordable Housing Online

Trump and Carson fuel suburban fears about low-income renters

By on September 11th, 2020

Tagged As: Editorials

Editor’s Note: From our CEO and Founder, David Layfield:

Affordable Housing Online has always been dedicated to helping low-income renters. This does not stop at just helping renters find affordable housing. It is also important for me to help renters understand legislation and policies that can affect their housing opportunities.

A recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal co-written by President Trump and HUD Secretary Ben Carson really set me off. It spreads fears that new affordable housing in the suburbs will bring crime and lawlessness; and that Black, Latino, and other minority families living next door to suburban households will destroy the American Dream.

This article is riddled with falsehoods that are designed to stoke racial and class divisions. Trump and Carson appeal to the worst fears they think will drive suburban voters in the coming election. Everything in it opposes what Affordable Housing Online is all about.

Sometimes you can’t just let destructive lies hang around unchallenged. Below are my candid thoughts and rebuttals to Trump and Carson’s falsehoods.

Donald Trump/Ben Carson: “The crime and chaos in Democrat-run cities have gotten so bad that liberals are even getting out of Manhattan’s Upper West Side.”

Dave Layfield: No, they’re getting out of cities to get away from the coronavirus! And Trump has a special ax to grind with the Upper West Side. A bunch of properties there have voted to remove the Trump name from their buildings.

DT/BC: “As usual, anyone who dares tell the truth about what the left is doing is smeared as a racist.”

DL: This is always their excuse to cover up their racist policies. Promoting fear of low-income and minority people moving to the suburbs is a racist act. Supporting ongoing zoning that for generations has kept minority families from living in suburban communities is racist policy.

DT/BC: “We reversed an Obama-Biden regulation that would have empowered the Department of Housing and Urban Development to abolish single-family zoning, compel the construction of high-density “stack and pack” apartment buildings in residential neighborhoods, and forcibly transform neighborhoods across America so they look and feel the way far-left ideologues and technocratic bureaucrats think they should.”

DL: This statement is false through and through. We wrote about Trump reversing the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule recently1. HUD’s action lets states and cities that have a history of housing segregation keep the same policies without any penalty. The rule they reversed does not require cities to adopt any specific type of zoning. It requires them to look at historic patterns of segregation, examine their policies, and set measurable goals for changing policies and improving housing choice. Even cities that allow multi-family housing in areas formerly zoned for single-family units have height restrictions and design standards to maintain the “character of the neighborhood.” Nowhere is HUD going to put huge concrete apartment towers in single-family neighborhoods. This is just gaslighting.

DT/BC: “We reject the ultraliberal view that the federal bureaucracy should dictate where and how people live. We believe the suburbs offer a wonderful life for Americans of all races and backgrounds when they are allowed to grow organically, from the bottom up.”

DL: Actually, the fair housing policy that Trump and Carson reversed says that anybody should be allowed to live anywhere. It rejects policies that actually have been directing where people can and can’t live. And suburbs did not grow “organically” from the ground up. They exploded after World War II, a product of legislation, zoning and lending practices that were explicitly racist and exclusionary. We see the same thing today with requirements for large lots, two-car garages, and other expensive features. This drives up prices so that people with modest incomes cannot afford to live in new suburban neighborhoods.

DT/BC: “Every American has a stake in thriving suburbs. The shameful days of redlining are gone, and a majority of the country lives in the suburbs, including majorities of African-Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian-Americans.”

DL: This is just not true. What you see now is “graylining.” You don’t see the line, but they are still there. The effects of decades of redlining persist to this day. According to a 2018 report by the National Community Reinvestment Corporation (NCRC), almost 3/4 of neighborhoods graded as “hazardous” or high risk 80 years ago by the Home Owners Loan Corporation are low- and moderate-income areas today. And the entire population has been shifting to suburban locations over the past couple decades, regardless of race. But not all suburbs are created equal. Median incomes are lower and poverty rates are higher in majority-minority suburbs than in white-majority suburbs2. And Republicans have promoted mobility vouchers during Trump’s term to help low-income renters move to “neighborhoods of opportunity,” largely in the suburbs. The House passed a mobility voucher demonstration last year with overwhelming Republican support on a vote of 387-223.

DT/BC: “Minneapolis abolished single-family zoning this year—a few months before it voted to abolish its police force. Oregon outlawed single-family zoning last year. For the past three years, the state senator who represents Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco has led a push to abolish single-family zoning in California.”

DL: Trump and Carson’s claim that liberals want to abolish single-family zoning is very misleading. It is painfully ironic that the places with booming economies have the highest housing costs. And this is mostly because there’s just not enough housing for anyone. Minneapolis and Oregon did indeed abolish single-family zoning, but it was replaced with the option to add a unit and make a duplex. Just because you can build an extra unit does not mean that everyone is going to go out and do it. They both also have allowances for small multifamily rentals near transit hubs, but local building codes and design standards will still be there. Nobody is going to build highrises in the middle of a subdivision with single-family homes.

DT/BC: “Liberals even believe this unprecedented federal disruption of the suburbs is required to battle climate change. They say the suburbs are a problem because of unacceptably high levels of greenhouse gases generated by a family with its own house, a yard, two cars and a dog.”

DL: Complete nonsense! I’m not sure how this climate change hogwash relates to discussing ways to eliminate racial housing segregation. But it sure does get people riled up when they’re (falsely) told that liberal elites say building a highrise next to their white picket fence will save the planet from greenhouse gasses.

DT/BC: “The Biden-Sanders unity platform calls for reimposing the Obama-Biden dystopian vision of building low-income housing units next to your suburban house. Some leading Democrats want to go even further. Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. James Clyburn have introduced a bill that would hold hostage more than $12 billion in federal grants to states for safe roads unless local politicians agree to densify the suburbs.”

DL: The HOME Act proposed by Booker and Clyburn requires cities to practice inclusionary zoning in order to receive transportation and community development block grants4. It is about reducing exclusion, not forcing towns to build highrises willy-nilly.

DT/BC: “America was founded on liberty and independence, not government coercion, domination and control. It would be a terrible mistake to put the federal government in charge of local decisions—from zoning and planning to schools. Our Founders understood this was the path to tyranny.”

DL: The federal government is generally not “in charge” of local decisions, but it is empowered to act when local governments do not adhere to federal law and the constitution. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson (a Republican and two Democrats) mobilized the National Guard during the civil rights movement when state and local governments refused equal treatment of Black citizens. In today’s case, the federal government is only requiring cities to follow existing law by removing barriers to housing choice.

DT/BC: “Decades of liberal governance have tragically made many urban cities unaffordable and others unlivable, unable to provide for their citizens’ basic needs in housing, public safety and education.”

DL: This is laughable. Surely, this has nothing to do with the explosive economic growth of these cities!? The major centers of economic growth in recent decades have been the tech and information hubs on the East and West coasts. As more people flocked to these places for good paying jobs, there wasn’t enough housing, driving rents through the roof. The problem isn’t keeping dark-skinned people out of the suburbs, it’s making sure that all people have access to decent housing they can afford. Trump and Carson are opposing “different” people moving to suburbs at the same time as they have tried to slash affordable housing programs that would provide both new housing and rental vouchers5.

DT/BC: “While we fight every day to restore our cities’ greatness with innovative means like opportunity zones, the left opposes us on rebuilding the economy, on law and order, and on school choice. We won’t let them export their failures to America’s suburbs. We will save our cities, from which these terrible policies have come, and we will save our suburbs.”

DL: What does law and order have to do with fair housing? Opportunity Zones have been a failure. This tax break is supposed to promote investment to help low-income communities. This would lead to new businesses, jobs and housing. Instead, few black-owned businesses have received Opportunity Zone funding6. It has poured millions of dollars into high-end commercial and housing projects, student housing in college towns, and projects long-planned in wealthy neighborhoods7.

This op-ed is not the first time Trump has twisted the affordable housing crisis to fan racial tensions. Affordable Housing Online has written about Trump and Carson’s ongoing efforts to gut enforcement of the Fair Housing Act. And since this op-ed appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the president has only intensified his frantic appeals to suburban fears.

Just this week, Trump tweeted that Joe Biden had pledged to abolish the suburbs. In another tweet the same day, he said a Biden administration would bring violence to the suburbs through low-income housing and projects.

President Trump and Secretary Carson have shown over the last three years that they are no friends to low-income renters. This op-ed shows their true stripes.

Edited by: Chris Holden


1 Trump fans race and class tensions as HUD guts key fair housing rule
2 The State of Segregation in the Suburbs
3 House passes bill to help voucher holders move to better neighborhoods
4 Renter Tax Credits Proposed to Address U.S. Rental Housing Crisis
5 Trump administration FY 2021 budget keeps pushing housing cuts
6 Black Businesses Largely Miss Out on Opportunity Zone Money
7 How a Trump Tax Break to Help Poor Communities Became a Windfall for the Rich