In an apparent bid to gain votes in suburban areas, President Donald Trump repealed an Obama-era fair housing rule.
In a press release announcing the measure, the Trump administration wrote that the new rule “eliminates the excessive burden put on local communities and gets rid of the top-down approach that dictated zoning for communities.”
The decision, which was preceded by a partial rollback, dismantled what remained of an Obama-era rule requiring localities to proactively assess segregation in housing. Among the requirements, localities had to answer a checklist of nearly 100 questions. Critics of the Housing and Urban Development rule called it onerous, while proponents of the previous measure said it was already too lax.
“The Trump administration had already taken steps to suspend the rule,” said Moses Gates, the Regional Planning Association’s vice president for housing and neighborhood planning. “But this definitely halts any kind of progress that was being made.”
Under the new rule, which the Trump administration called “saving our suburbs,” localities can certify they are in compliance with fair housing law, without having to provide evidence or study the effect of zoning decisions on segregation.
“It’s just instituting what is already a de facto policy,” said Gates. “[Trump] is doing it because he’s getting politically desperate and is going back to the well of what he thinks works — being more and more explicitly racist.”
The ruling is of particular importance in wealthy enclaves in places like Long Island, suburban New Jersey and Westchester, which are often resistant to large-scale affordable housing that would allow more people of color to live in largely white communities. Craig Gurian, executive director of the Anti-Discrimination Center, which brought a 2006 lawsuit to challenge restrictive zoning in Westchester County, said Trump’s change means “the national scourge of residential segregation will continue unabated.”
“It is well to remember that the social engineering involved here was the deliberate, decades-long policy of excluding African Americans from suburban neighborhoods,” said Gurian. “Remedying that wrong is what basic justice requires.”
A multi-year investigation conducted by Newsday found that real estate agents on Long Island routinely steered black homebuyers away from white neighborhoods.
Multiple high-level affordable housing developers declined to comment for this story.
Racial bias and a preference for single-family homes, rather than multifamily apartments, often pits communities against affordable real estate developers, who must battle exclusionary zoning laws to complete their projects.