Finance

Trump pitches fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' with racist tropes

President Trump on Wednesday claimed that his decision to scrap an Obama-era rule meant to quash racial discrimination would win the support of suburban women afraid of living near low-income housing projects, channeling decades of racist attacks on such developments.

Trump claimed in a tweet that the "suburban housewife" would vote for him out of fears that "low income housing would invade their neighborhood" under Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

Trump also attacked Biden's promise to revive the revoked rule, known as the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, and claimed for no clear reason that Biden would put Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in charge of its enforcement.

"The 'suburban housewife' will be voting for me. They want safety & are thrilled that I ended the long running program where low income housing would invade their neighborhood. Biden would reinstall it, in a bigger form, with Corey Booker in charge!" Trump tweeted, also tagging the accounts of the Fox News show "Fox & Friends" and Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo.

Trump's tweet is his latest attempt to draw from decades of racist opposition to housing desegregation efforts and low-income housing projects into support for his reelection bid.

Trump's argument is also out of step with his administration's justification for repealing the AFFH rule in July. That rule, issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 2015, required local governments to prove that federal subsidies for housing projects would not go to developments with discriminatory zoning laws or regulations.

HUD replaced the AFFH rule last month with a measure meant to give local governments more flexibility and credence. But while HUD said the decision was meant to protect the autonomy of local governments to stamp out racial discrimination, Trump has pitched it as a way to keep low-income Americans out of wealthy neighborhoods where he baselessly claims they would commit crimes.

The president has repeatedly claimed that Biden's plans to revive the AFFH rule and bolster other anti-housing discrimination efforts would spike crime in affluent suburbs that have drifted away from the Republican Party since his election. There is no statistical evidence to support Trump's claim, but opponents of efforts to diversify neighborhoods and expand low-income housing have historically invoked unfounded concerns about crime to block such efforts.

Trump also claimed last month that his repeal of the AFFH rule would prevent suburban families from being "bothered or financially hurt" by the presence of low-income neighbors. The president also urged "The Suburban Housewives of America" to read an op-ed written in support of the AFFH repeal, again claiming that "Biden will destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream."

Fair housing advocates and Democratic lawmakers have fiercely criticized Trump's decision to repeal the AFFH rule and tie low-income housing to crime, particularly as the coronavirus pandemic takes a disproportionate toll on communities of color. Black and Hispanic Americans make up a disproportionate number of coronavirus cases and deaths and are more likely than other demographic groups to work in a field where remote work is impossible.

Black and Hispanic Americans also face higher levels of unemployment and hold significantly less wealth than other demographic groups. That wealth gap is due in part to decades of housing discrimination that locked minority families out of government programs that drastically expanded homeownership for white Americans after World War II.

White House spokesman Judd Deere did not answer questions about whether Trump believed that low-income housing causes crime, why the president cited Booker in his criticism of Biden, or why he tagged Fox and Friends and Bartiromo in his tweet.

Deere said in a statement that the AFFH repeal provided "long-overdue regulatory relief and cost savings to communities" and "eliminates D.C. control and strengthens local control on housing and development so communities can decide for themselves how to meet the unique housing needs of each community."

Updated at 4:22 p.m.

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