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…
…Your housing prices will go up based on the market, and crime will go down. I have rescinded the Obama-Biden AFFH Rule. Enjoy!
With that one tweet, Trump made clear that he wants to roll back time to the 1950s, when suburbs were white, women stayed home and men went off to work each day confident that their families were safe from the poverty and crime of the inner cities.
No one should be surprised by this. In addition to being an obvious dogwhistle to his base, Trump is expressing a yearning common to the elderly of wanting to go back to the days of their childhood when life seemed better and simpler. Mainly because they were children and insulated from the realities of life.
Life was also much better if you were white, male and heterosexual. Think of all the strides that we have made since the last half of the 20th century: civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, disability rights. All of these groups clamoring for a seat at the table can seem very intimidating to an old man raised in a lily white suburb by a father who actively discriminated against Blacks and demeaned his wife and oldest son. It’s easy to understand why he believes that low income people bring crime and lower housing prices when they are allowed to live in the suburbs.
I’m here to tell you that the threat does not exist. Here in New Jersey, thanks to the Mt. Laurel Doctrine, we have been building low income housing in our towns for decades.
The Mt. Laurel Doctrine is a result of lawsuits brought against several wealthy towns in New Jersey who were blocking the construction of high density housing that would be attractive to lower income people in their towns. They did this using local ordinances that restricted construction to single family homes on large multi-acre lots.
The New Jersey Supreme Court struck down the ordinances in 1975 on the grounds that they were exclusionary. The New Jersey legislature followed up in 1983 with the Fair Housing Act that requires every municipality in New Jersey to provide a pre-determined number of affordable housing units.
Of course there was a lot of push back, court cases and towns that tried to get around the law. Like Trump, people were afraid of crime, plunging house prices and lowered school standards.
It was the schools that worried parents the most. New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the nation because each tiny town maintains its own school district. The residents are willing to pay sky high taxes to make sure that their children attend small local schools instead of large multi-town central schools where their children would not get the individualized attention that they receive in the local schools.
The wealthiest towns with the highest taxes have some of the best school systems in the country. The fear was that if they were forced to admit students coming from failing inner city schools that standards would have to be lowered to accommodate them. Their children would no longer receive the very best education that their taxes could provide.
Since the implementation of the Fair Housing Act, study after study has proven that crime has not risen, housing prices have not fallen and most importantly, school standards have not been lowered. In fact, students moving from failing inner city schools to rigorous suburban schools have thrived. Their graduation rates and college admission rates are equivalent to their wealthier peers.
The whole purpose of moving families to the suburbs to provide them with a safer environment and better opportunities has worked. The town where I live is slowly converting from farmland to townhouses and condos. When a developer wants to build a new development, the town requires that they set aside a certain number of units for affordable housing. In the townhouse development where I live, I don’t know which units are affordable housing or which families are low income. We are all just neighbors chatting as we walk our dogs or pick up our kids from the bus stop.
Like most of Trump’s acts, rolling back the AFFH (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing) is just a political gesture. It’s a way to play to his base that has no basis in modern reality. He can go live in the 50s if he wants. I prefer living in my safe, diverse neighborhood in the 21st century.