The Trump administration on Thursday repealed an Obama administration rule meant to combat housing discrimination that President Trump has cited as he portrays presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden as a threat to suburban voters.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it was replacing the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule implemented in 2015 with its own policy, dubbed Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice.
“After reviewing thousands of comments on the proposed changes to the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation, we found it to be unworkable and ultimately a waste of time for localities to comply with, too often resulting in funds being steered away from communities that need them most,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement.
Under the new rule, local officials have significantly more jurisdiction in determining what qualifies as fair housing and how to promote its accessibility.
To qualify as fair housing under the new rule, a development must be "affordable, safe, decent, free of unlawful discrimination, and accessible under civil rights laws," according to HUD. Efforts to further fair housing are redefined under the rule to include "any action rationally related to promoting any of the above attributes of fair housing."
The Obama rule previously required localities to draw up plans to address housing discrimination in order to receive certain federal funding. The Trump administration gutted it more than two years ago, making it largely toothless.
"It’s a dark day for the country when the President boasts about maintaining housing segregation, and the agency charged with carrying out the Fair Housing Act becomes a tool to help him do it," Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) , the ranking member of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, said in a statement.
The action follows weeks of rhetoric from Trump warning about threats to the suburbs as he courts those voters ahead of November's election. He specifically cited the Obama-era housing rule, arguing that it took zoning decisions out of the hands of local officials.
Trump on Thursday tweeted a New York Post column criticizing Biden's housing platform.
"The Suburban Housewives of America must read this article," Trump tweeted. "Biden will destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream. I will preserve it, and make it even better!"
At a White House event earlier this month, Trump claimed a Biden presidency would "totally destroy the beautiful suburbs. Suburbia will be no longer as we know it. So they wanted to defund and abolish your police and law enforcement while at the same time destroying our great suburbs."
Critics have condemned Trump's rhetoric as stoking racial animus by suggesting the implementation of fair housing standards that largely benefit minorities would lead to the destruction of the suburbs.
Biden has vowed in his campaign's housing plan to reinstate the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule and provide tax incentives to build more affordable housing in suburban, urban and rural areas.
Suburban voters, and suburban women in particular, will be a critical voting bloc for Trump if he hopes to win reelection in November.
A CNN exit poll found that 49 percent of suburban voters backed Trump in the 2016 election, compared to 45 percent who supported Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But many of those same voters backed Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms, helping the party take control of the House.