Fair housing groups slam Trump's suburban racial rhetoric

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FILE - In this July 15, 2020, file photo President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington after stepping off Marine One. Trumps pledge to rollback an Obama-era effort to eliminate racial disparities in Americas suburbs is drawing harsh criticism from fair housing advocates, who call it a blatant attempt at racial politics and an appeal to white votes before the November election. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s pledge to roll back an Obama-era regulation designed to eliminate racial disparities in the suburbs is drawing harsh criticism from fair housing advocates, who label it a blatant attempt to play racial politics and appeal to white voters in the final weeks before the election.

They also consider it a empty political stunt, since the regulation he's talking about eliminating never truly got started on the ground in the first place.

Trump has repeatedly threatened to repeal a 2015 initiative that requires local governments to address historic patterns of racial segregation. On Thursday, he said the regulation “will totally destroy the beautiful suburbs” and demolish property values by forcing low-income housing construction in suburban areas.

“Your home will go down in value and crime rates will rapidly rise,” he said. “People have worked all their lives to get into a community, and now they’re going to watch it go to hell. Not going to happen, not while I’m here.”

It's rhetoric that housing advocates find both historically familiar and particularly incendiary as America grapples with a national reckoning over entrenched racial iniquities.

“He’s flatly saying that property values will go down and crime will increase if black people move into your neighborhoods," said Diane Yentel, president of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. "It's especially abhorrent for Trump to be furthering racial entrenchment of segregated communities at this moment in our history.”

The initiative, known as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing or AFFH, is a provision of the Fair Housing Act that requires local governments and zoning boards to submit detailed plans on how they intend to address racial disparities in order to obtain funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

An explainer on the HUD website says the program’s goal is “replacing segregated living patterns with truly integrated and balanced living patterns, transforming racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity, and fostering and maintaining compliance with civil rights and fair housing laws.”