President Donald Trump is doing away with a little-known rule created to prevent racial discrimination in housing that he claims is having “a devastating impact” on America’s suburbs.
Just four months before the presidential election, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced on Thursday that it will end the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulation. The rule, introduced by President Barack Obama‘s administration in 2015, was a provision of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Its aim was to force cities receiving federal housing money to assess and then address local housing discrimination.
“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 on June 30.
The president has accused his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, of wanting to “abolish” the suburbs. Biden supports the regulation.
HUD called the AFFH “complicated, costly and ineffective” in a press release issued Thursday.
“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 in a statement. “Washington has no business dictating what is best to meet your local community’s unique needs.”
The original rule, if it had been left in place, would have likely resulted in communities allowing more affordable housing to go up. It may have also led to zoning changes to allow apartment and condo buildings, as well as smaller, more affordable, single-family homes to be built. This would have affected some wealthier communities that have long fought these developments claiming they could bring down property values.
However, AFFH didn’t result in any sweeping changes nationally. The Trump administration took the teeth out of the regulation in 2018 by eliminating the requirement for cities to use the government’s reporting tool and granting them an extra two years to turn in their assessments.
This latest move by the administration is just the final nail in the AFFH’s coffin.
“This is coming at a time when we’re seeing the heavy price that communities of color pay when we allow segregation and discrimination to happen,” says Peggy Bailey. She is the vice president of housing policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan think tank.
“The impact will be, communities will be allowed to sweep housing discrimination under the rug,” she says. “There will be limited, if no accountability, if communities enact policies that advance segregation and discrimination.”
The replacement rule, called Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice, is designed to ensure that housing is “affordable, safe, decent, free of unlawful discrimination and accessible under civil rights laws,” according to the press release.
But some see the rule swap as a ploy in the presidential election campaign.
Trump “is trying to win back the suburban vote by scaring them and claiming he is up against an opponent who wants to destroy the suburbs through racial and economic integration,” says Evan McKenzie, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “He’s invoking the idea of the suburbs of the past, that were uniformly white and prosperous.”