Trump Is Dismantling Obama-Era Rules Prohibiting Discrimination In Federal Housing Policy
There have been a few constants in Donald Trump’s administration that will always be remembered with fear and an uncanny feeling of uneasiness by Latino communities and by immigrants in general. The travel ban imposed on citizens from countries of Muslim majority, the constant raids that ICE has been involved in, family separations at the border, the famous Wall, the pressure that the White House has put on Mexico to stop Central American migrant caravans at the Guatemala-Mexico border… the list is painfully long.
Another constant regarding immigration and the Trump years is POTUS’ seemingly unmovable desire to reverse Barack Obama’s major changes to immigrant rights. Well now, a mere few months from the 2020 presidential campaign, the Trump administration is taking a step that will make Brown and Black populations feel even more vulnerable.
Trump intends to reverse Barack Obama’s anti-discrimination housing rules.
This would be a terrible blow for diversity. Obama’s rules blocked banks from denying loans based on race or ethnicity, and cities from segregating people experiencing financial hardship.
But what are the changes being made by the Trump administration exactly?
The changes are being spearheaded by Ben Carson, Housing Secretary and former presidential hopeful. As Politico reports, Carson is “ moving to scrap an Obama policy withholding federal funds from cities if they don’t address segregation”. Politico also emphasized that, additionally, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “has proposed cutting back on collecting data that helps track discrimination in the mortgage market.”
This basically means that speculators and city planners would have free reign on how neighbourhoods are laid out in terms of racial, financial and cultural background. Investors can benefit projects that cater for outsiders instead of local populations, further contributing to gentrification. Carson has said that Obama’s strengthening of the Fair Housing Law ended up “actually suffocating investment in some of our most distressed neighborhoods.”
The problem is the nature of said investment and whether it forces underprivileged communities out due to escalating prices in real estate, rent and basic commodities. Shaun Donovan, who worked on the Obama administration’s approach to housing, wrote in a New York Times editorial that“housing plays a key role in advancing economic opportunity and closing the wealth gap between people of color and white Americans. African-Americans and Latinos have less than one-tenth and one-eighth, respectively, of the household wealth of white Americans, and homeownership remains the largest source of wealth-building for most families”. Taking this into account, it is fair to say that any changes to how discrimination of prevented will have a considerable impact on the true inclusion of Black and Brown communities and individuals in the American economy.
Trump officials say these measures are an intention to cut red tape, but they could spell doom for diversity.
The administration argues that these changes are meant to facilitate a swifter process for developers and for cities, who would be able to bypass obstacles for construction projects. But these obstacles are there for a reason! And this reason is diversity. Democrats and activists are getting up in arms. Lisa Rice, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance, has said: “They’re trying to eliminate the ability to enforce fair housing. They do not want to promote fair housing. They do not want to eliminate the vestiges of discrimination.”
Historically, U.S. cities have been ghettoized and during the Obama administration some of the policies that allowed this system to be perpetuated were given a second look, and in some cases reversed.
Changes to Fair Housing Laws could spell even lower levels of homeownership among minorities.
Activists say that the Trump Administration is ignoring the fact that there is discimination in real estate and housing, and that pretending that race has nothing to do with this is dangerous and irresponsible. And the levels of home ownership among historically vulnerable communities is presenting a downhill trend. As Politico reports:“The white rate [of home ownership] is about 73 percent, compared with a little under 43 percent among black people.”
Legal experts think that the changes proposed by Trump and Carson are undermining the capacity of minorities to actually be able to afford places in their own neighborhoods. Thomas Silverstein of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law,Y told Politico: “I think there’s an effort by this administration to narrow the scope and the sort of meaning of civil rights protections so there’s just a hollowed-out husk of what’s actually protected”.