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Trump’s Attack on Affordable Housing

HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson, President Trump

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump had the audacity to appeal to Black voters by asking the question, “What the hell do you have to lose?” Now, roughly two months into his presidency, at least part of the answer has become clear: We can lose more than $6 billion previously directed toward cities with large Black populations.

Last week, the Trump administration unveiled a draconian budget plan that essentially amounts to an attack on low-income individuals and families. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s Office of Management and Budget director, gleefully discussed proposed cuts to Meals on Wheels and after-school programs. It did not take long for the country to figure out that many of the people most harmed by Trump’s budget will be low-income white voters who overwhelmingly supported Trump.

True as that may be, many aspects of the budget will have a disproportionate effect on the Black community. One example is the 31 percent reduction in the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, including the elimination of the agency’s environmental justice office office, which addresses pollution disparities in Black and Latino communities.

However, perhaps the most glaring example of how Trump’s budget negatively targets the Black community with surgical precision can be found in the proposed cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Trump’s plan reduces the HUD budget by $6.2 billion, roughly 13 percent of the department’s current budget.

Most of the HUD cuts are related to the elimination of the Community Development Block Grant program; indeed, almost 50 percent of the $6.2 billion decrease stems from that single program. A large portion of the remaining cuts are targeted at affordable housing programs. Such cuts will lead to fewer public housing units, fewer Section 8 vouchers (that help low-income residents afford market rents) or smaller voucher amounts. Either of those consequences amounts to what ThinkProgress refers to as “a homelessness plan.”

One of the affordable housing programs slated for elimination is the Choice Neighborhoods program, which seeks to transform neighborhoods by not only addressing physical housing stock, but other community issues as well.

One example where these cuts will be felt is Atlanta’s westside neighborhoods. In September 2015, Atlanta was one of five cities selected to receive a Choice Neighborhoods grant for roughly $30 million. The grant covered expanded housing, youth services, job training and more. The federal support also leveraged millions of dollars of additional funding from the city of Atlanta, businesses and philanthropic organizations.

But, all of that is on the chopping block now, thanks to Trump’s proposed budget. This is both ironic and hypocritical, given Trump’s criticisms of the city and of Rep. John Lewis a week before the inauguration. Trump tweeted that the city, or more specifically, Lewis’ district, “is in horrible shape and falling apart [not to mention crime infested].” And, now, Trump’s solution for Atlanta and urban areas across the country is to eliminate billions of dollars in funding.

To a certain extent, Trump’s policies are the logical extension of housing privatization and “mixed-income” strategies that the federal government and many cities have been implementing for decades. In regard to affordable housing, we have experienced a 20-year slide down a slippery slope, and now the Trump administration threatens to smash the slope and push the country’s most vulnerable populations over a steep cliff.

In reality, the Trump and Republican attack on affordable housing started prior to the recent unveiling of his budget plan. In January, a bill was introduced in Congress that would completely undermine a key HUD policy initiated by the Obama administration, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, which was designed to address racial disparities in housing, including disparities related to affordability and access.

The proposed Republican bill (HR 482) explicitly nullifies the AFFH policy and then goes on to state, “no federal funds may be used to design, build, maintain, utilize or provide access to a federal database of geospatial (the application of statistical analysis and other analytic techniques to data that has a geographical or spatial aspect) information on community racial disparities or disparities in access to affordable housing.” In other words, not only did they eliminate an Obama policy designed to address racial disparities, they went so far as to ban the collection of data that would even acknowledge such disparities exist.

Coincidentally, the alt-right Breitbart website previously managed by Trump adviser Steve Bannon has published numerous articles condemning affordable housing strategies, including a December 2015 article specifically calling for ending the AFFH rule that is now under attack. In addition, it’s worth remembering that it was Breitbart that caused the demise of the nonprofit organization ACORN which, prior to getting swept up in voter fraud propaganda, was primarily known for its work related to affordable housing.

On this issue, as with other political issues, Bannon and Trump are like-minded. Trump’s entire life as a developer demonstrates that he has absolutely no interest in affordable housing. His family’s development businesses, which have shown a pattern of housing discrimination that have resulted in multiple violations of federal law based on housing discrimination against Black people, demonstrates he has nothing but contempt regarding the housing needs of the Black community. History suggests that a Trump attack on affordable housing in general, and Black housing in particular, was all but guaranteed.

After all, unlike the immigrant community that Trump, Bannon and the rest of the “deplorables” intend to kick out of the country, their plan for the Black community may very well start with kicking us out of our homes and apartments.

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