In a pair of tweets one advocacy group denounced as "racist, classist garbage," President Donald Trump on Wednesday boasted that he is working to prevent construction of low-income housing in the suburbs by repealing an Obama-era rule aimed at combating persistent racial segregation in those communities.
"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," Trump tweeted. "Your housing prices will go up based on the market, and crime will go down. I have rescinded the Obama-Biden AFFH Rule. Enjoy!"
"Words can't quite capture how outrageous and racist this is. Trump and Ben Carson have worked hand in glove to obstruct and destroy decades of work to promote fair housing in our country."
—Kristen Clarke, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
Trump was referring to the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, an addition to the 1968 Fair Housing Act that required cities and towns receiving federal funding to document and develop plans to redress racial housing segregation.
In 2018, Trump's Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson suspended the Obama-era rule. Last Thursday, HUD announced it is replacing the AFFH with a new regulatory framework (pdf) that would allow localities to monitor their own compliance with fair housing laws. The new rules are set to take effect next month.
"Words can't quite capture how outrageous and racist this is," Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in response to the president's tweets Wednesday. "Trump and Ben Carson have worked hand in glove to obstruct and destroy decades of work to promote fair housing in our country."
"On this latest move," Clarke added, "we will see the administration in court."
This is the president of the United States telling “all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream” that “crime will go down” because he's moved forward with gutting the Fair Housing Act & is rescinding a rule to help fight modern-day segregation.
It's white supremacy. https://t.co/c9hWEWeQCJ
— The Leadership Conference (@civilrightsorg) July 29, 2020
With the 2020 presidential election a mere three months away, critics like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) characterized Trump's tweets as the president's most recent racist dog whistle aimed at white suburban voters he believes would be comforted by such messaging.
The AFFH rule that Trump ripped up was about helping cities address our country’s ugly legacy of government-backed housing discrimination and segregation.
This is blatant racism from the President of the United States. And it’s disgusting. pic.twitter.com/5t7aKPBsS1
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) July 29, 2020
An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll last month showed Trump trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden 35% to 60% among suburban voters.
The New York Times reported earlier this month that "Trump and his campaign team, already concerned about his weakness in battleground states, have become increasingly alarmed by internal polling showing a softening of support among suburban voters, especially women without college degrees."
"The Suburban Housewives of America must read this article," Trump tweeted last week, linking to a New York Post column by right-wing commentator Betsy McCaughey. "Biden will destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream. I will preserve it, and make it even better!"
Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a statement last week that Trump's rescission of the AFFH rule is an "abhorrent" attempt to "use a critical fair housing tool for election year race-baiting, particularly during a time of reckoning for racial injustices."