Housing Policy

Trump Appeals to Progressive Voters With Promise To Defend Suburbs Against New Housing Development

NIMBYism comes in many different ideological stripes. Fewer homes and higher rents is always the result.


In an apparent bid to shore up his support among progressives in the San Francisco Bay Area, President Donald Trump is promising to prevent the construction of new low-income housing in suburban neighborhoods.

"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," Trump said on Twitter, referencing his recent repeal of the Obama-era affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH) rule. "Your housing prices will go up based on the market, and crime will go down. I have rescinded the Obama-Biden AFFH Rule. Enjoy!"

The old "Obama-Biden" AFFH rule did not, in fact, force suburban communities to allow low-income housing construction. Instead, the rather obscure regulation required states and localities who received federal housing funds to report on obstacles to fair housing.

The substance of that now-replaced rule is likely much less important to Trump than its symbolism as an example of the federal government forcing change onto localities that don't want it.

In that sense, the president shares a lot in common with many of his progressive detractors in deeply blue areas of the country who are also happy to use regulation to keep new housing at bay, and who organize against attempts from higher levels of government to force them to accept new development.

This would include places like Lafayette, California, a wealthy San Francisco suburb nestled in Contra Costa County, where 69 percent of voters supported Hillary Clinton in 2016. Its residents fight to stop a "very urban," "unsightly" 315-unit housing development was recently profiled by The New York Times.

Over in the suburban community of Cupertino, California—hardly Trump country—local activists spent years trying to stop the development of an abandoned mall into apartments, half of which would be rented out to lower-income tenants at below-market rates.

In the famously liberal city of Berkeley, California, activists often argue against new housing on the grounds that it will threaten their community's sustainable character.

"Berkeley needs to prioritize a livable, sustainable environment for people who already live here," said one resident at a 2018 Zoning Adjustment Board meeting, when opposing a 57-unit development of student housing. "We are not obligated to sacrifice what is best about Berkeley to build dorm rooms."

In February, Curbed reported on how the group Livable California had created an ideology-spanning coalition that included Green Party members, explicit socialists, and anti-gentrification activists to oppose efforts to loosen restrictions on building dense housing.

In San Francisco proper, anti-gentrification groups frequently lead the charge against new apartment buildings, deploying arguments that blend concerns about rising rents and displacement with worries about "monster" developments changing the character and demographics of neighborhoods and (in at least two cases reported by Reason) casting shadows on nearby parks.

Frequently, activists' crusades against particular projects include demands that developers build only 100 percent below-market-rate housing, something Trump now says he's against on principle. Nevertheless, activists' demands for only affordable housing often mean they end up stopping or delaying market-rate projects that would include a significant number of affordable units.

Trump's attacks on the AFFH rule as an example of federal overreach mirror housing policy fights in California, where anti-development activists of all ideological stripes have opposed state bills that would require local governments to allow for more housing near transit lines and job centers.

The most recent iteration of this idea, Senate Bill (S.B.) 50, was opposed by a number of "equity groups" for including insufficient protections against displacing current residents. Other groups like Housing Is a Human Right—a project of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation—argued against S.B. 50's liberalization of market-rate development as "trickle-down housing." That group is instead backing a rent control ballot initiative.

NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) opposition to new housing development is very much a cross-ideological phenomenon. NIMBYs on the right might put more emphasis on property values and crime. Those on the left will fret about gentrification and environmental sustainability. Regardless of the rhetoric, or even intent, the result is less housing gets built, and housing costs go up.

It's unlikely that Trump will pick up too many votes in the blue suburbs of blue cities, but his defense of local control and low-density zoning probably isn't hurting him there.

NEXT: Everybody Is Jumping to Conclusions About This Couple's Show of Force in Response to Trespassing Protesters

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  1. This is an odd take.

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      2. Yes they are. They want to spread their idiot constituency across the country and dominate the electoral map.

        Progressives must go.

    1. Silly is the word that first came to my mind.

    2. Touché, Reason.

    3. Reason hasn’t heard of agenda 21

  2. The old “Obama-Biden” AFFH rule did not, in fact, force suburban communities to allow low-income housing construction. Instead, the rather obscure regulation required states and localities who received federal housing funds to report on obstacles to fair housing.

    We aren’t ‘ordering’ you to do this; we’re just ‘nudging’ you. Nothing explicit, but you know what we want.

    1. From the wiki, because to Hell with me doing Christian’s research for him for free, “It must then analyze factors which contribute to any prohibitive barriers in housing and formulate a plan to remedy the impediments.”

      The ‘formulate a plan to remedy impediments’ part sure looks like a demand for redressive action to me, beyond merely reporting obstacles.

      Christ, it’s Bizzaro World in here.

      1. Reason is just a progressive site anymore.

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    3. “We aren’t ‘ordering’ you to do this; we’re just ‘nudging’ you. Nothing explicit, but you know what we want and expect or else.” FTFY

      One person’s “nudge” is another person’s veiled threat before escalation. Appears to be an under appreciation for the power of the carrot.

    4. In CA, they use this rule to force hi-density housing on local communities which do not have the school volume to support the sudden jump in population. So FU, Reason.

  3. Trump: “I have rescinded the Obama-Biden AFFH Rule.”
    Britschgi: “Thats NIMBYism!”

    Deregulation is “appealing to progs” because it’s no longer mandatory to build projects in certain neighborhoods?
    I know, I know, orangemanbad, but you’re at least supposed to pretend to be libertarian.

    1. Hell, I’d be satisfied if they just pretended to make sense! It’s not a particularly libertarian analysis to see the deregulation does not appeal to progs.

  4. The old “Obama-Biden” AFFH rule did not, in fact, force suburban communities to allow low-income housing construction. Instead, the rather obscure regulation required states and localities who received federal housing funds to report on obstacles to fair housing.

    And what exactly do you think “fair” housing is going to be defined as and what do you think the effects of reporting on “obstacles” are going to be? Keeping in mind, of course, that the bureaucrats at HUD are Marxists who define words to mean the exact opposite of what normal people define them to mean.

    1. Hard not to notice that heartfelt acceptance and tolerance of all this wonderful diversity, inclusion, and multi-culturism increases exponentially the further our smug, self-righteous, sanctimonious elite live from the many negative affects of it.

      Here is the truth: No one wants to live around people on welfare because they know it will come with an increase in crime and noise and trash-filled streets, as they can see in any public housing project.

      If these were good tenants and neighbors, the government would not have to try to force this kind of housing on middle class neighborhoods, just as is true of gender- and race-based hiring and college acceptance quotas.

      1. “If these were good tenants and neighbors, the government would not have to try to force this kind of housing on middle class neighborhoods, just as is true of gender- and race-based hiring and college acceptance quotas.”

        If any of these were not an “issue”, there would be no reason for the government to pull a gun.
        the author is an ignoramus or a liar or both.

  5. I haven’t had time to read the article or previous comments yet, but:
    Trump Appeals to Progressive Voters With Promise To Defend Suburbs Against New FEDERALLY SUBSIDIZED Housing Development
    I’m sure is how it should read, since I’ve been familiar with this issue in general for about 30 years.

    Reason’s editors have bent and twisted the issue twice: first by saying this appeals to progressive voters, when it’s the progressives who are on the opposite side of this; second by trying to fool libertarian readers onto the wrong side.

    What Trump’s doing is a win for liberty either way. Either local government refuses the federal subsidy, or the locals are given a freer hand with development even if they take the subsidy, despite progressives’ agitation.

    1. Hah! This article didn’t even mention it applied only as a condition on HUD grants, unless it was so oblique I missed it somehow. You had to go back to the previous, referenced article to see that. I just knew about this on general principles, since details like this have been a matter of contention for decades, resulting in federal judges directing votes of Yonkers elected officials, for instance.

      1. The real criticism of the first article was that Trump/Carson didn’t take up some proposed rules that would have over-ridden local control in favor of more dense housing.

        I tend to agree that as much as I would like local laws to be less restrictive, centralizing these decisions to washington- no matter how pure your intent- will always result in worse outcomes, even if it takes a couple decades to do so.

  6. “In an apparent bid to shore up his support among progressives in the San Francisco Bay Area”

    Say what?
    Where have you been the last decade or two?
    No politician to the right of Marx has support in the San Francisco Bay area.

    1. Marx himself wouldn’t pass their purity tests.

      1. You’re right. Old white European. Unacceptable.

  7. Trump is explicitly condemning the idea of forcing places to build low income housing, under the assumption that it brings crime and ruins property values. So Christian says he is just like local activists in California that block building projects UNLESS those projects include more low income housing.

    Christian’s comparison is lunacy. Trump explicitly does not want LOW INCOME housing. He is demagoguing against Projects. This says nothing about his feelings about denser urban housing. Not all multi-family dwellings are Low Income housing.

    1. In San Francisco, ALL housing is double plus high income housing.

  8. >>to report on obstacles to fair housing.

    moats? gates?

    1. Riots, Democrats, Karen – – – – – – –

  9. The appeal to suburbanites is to prevent the big cities from taking away education funds from little Isaac and Taylor. “Don’t sacrifice your kids’ education in order to prop up the failing, disfunctional, and corrupt public schools in the city.”

  10. A little less than 20 years ago I decided the Libertarian Party was, among many other defects that made it unworthwhile, too prone to steering the libertarian movement in non- or even anti-libertarian directions. What I didn’t see at the time was that, as tiny, poor, and weak as the radical libertarian tendency was, even in the country where it was the strongest (USA), it would still be worth someone’s while to steer such organs of it as the Niskanen and then the Reason foundations in other directions. What next, FEE?

    Well, at least the Drug Policy Alliance hasn’t been twisted into a mouthpiece for stricter regulation of liquor or of nicotine vaping. The NTU hasn’t taken a pro-tax stance. JPFO hasn’t become antisemitic or anti-gun. Uh…[gulp]…have they?

  11. The interesting question is where Ben Carson has been in all this. I suspect he’s been mostly absent because he’s been completely house-broken by the bureaucracy in a department he knows absolutely nothing about and therefore has to rely on them to tell him what’s what. Who the hell put him in charge of HUD just because he’s the token black guy?

    1. Pretty sure he asked to head up HUD

  12. Reason was against AFFH before they were for it.

    1. Principals, not principles.

  13. This is dumb even by Orange Man Bad standards

    1. Astoundingly

    2. Orange Man bad?!? He BAD, all right! He SOOO BAD, He be GOOD! He be GREAT! He Make America Great Again!

      We KNOW He can Make America Great Again, because, as a bad-ass businessman, He Made Himself and His Family Great Again! He Pussy Grabber in Chief!

      See The Atlantic article by using the below search-string in quotes:
      “The Many Scandals of Donald Trump: A Cheat Sheet” or this one…


      He pussy-grab His creditors in 7 bankruptcies, His illegal sub-human workers ripped off of pay on His building projects, and His “students” in His fake Get-Rich-like-Me realty schools, and so on. So, He has a GREAT record of ripping others off! So SURELY He can rip off other nations, other ethnic groups, etc., in trade wars and border wars, for the benefit of ALL of us!!!

      All Hail to THE Pussy Grabber in Chief!!!

      Most of all, HAIL the Chief, for having revoked karma! What comes around, will no longer go around!!! The Donald has figured out that all of the un-Americans are SOOO stupid, that we can pussy-grab them all day, every day, and they will NEVER think of pussy-grabbing us right back!

      Orange Man Bad-Ass Pussy-Grabber all right!

      We CAN grab all the pussy, all the time, and NONE will be smart enough to EVER grab our pussies right back!

      These voters simply cannot or will not recognize the central illusion of politics… You can pussy-grab all of the people some of the time, and you can pussy-grab some of the people all of the time, but you cannot pussy-grab all of the people all of the time! Sooner or later, karma catches up, and the others will pussy-grab you right back!

      1. Wow!! Liberalism is a scary condition to the brain of sufferers but with TDS added it gets terrifying.

  14. Normally reason Koch libertarians would be against any federal regulation. But tds forces them to be against anything trump does or says and makes them have common cause with their former political enemies on the left. I assure you that you won’t be believed when you try to change your tune if dems sweep the elections. You will be mocked.

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  16. I grew up in a small town that was mostly working class ethnics. Then the NY State Urban Development Corp decided to build a low income apartment project across the street in a field that kids used to fish in a few creeks. The project looked like something created by an east german architect..lots of poured white concrete. Property values went way down, crime up and when the working class Irish, Dutch, and Italians complained they were told..”it is important my children go to school with the work” from wealthy folks who lived on the other side of town. End all public housing…

    1. “wealthy folks who lived on the other side of town”

      You mean the progressives?

      Yours is a classic example of the forgotten man.

  17. HUD should be on the chopping block just like the department of education. All it does is distort the housing market.

    1. Same with the atfe, all it does is take away a fun Saturday night

      1. “Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms” shouldn’t be the name of a Federal agency, it should be the name of a convenience store!

        /thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week. Thank the fish, have the waitress.

  18. Fine, whatever. I guess we’re playing a fun little game where we ignore the obvious racism of his tweet and make a joke about those mean old hypocritical liberals.

    Rich liberals don’t like the poors in their neighborhoods anymore than rich conservatives. What we do have going for us is a willingness to support policy targeted at reducing the number of poors altogether.

    1. Except the historical evidence points in the opposite direction. Almost as if Democrats want a permanent dependent class to vote for them….

      1. No it doesn’t.

        1. Yes, it does. Just shut up and put that big black dildo back in your ass.

    2. You know what is racist? AFFH is racist. The federal tax payer funded policies (HUD/section 8, expanding public schools-dept of ed-teachers unions, public unions, public transit grants) that specifically note that black and poor immigrants will never ever compete in the free market wit white and asian people. That is, on its face, racist.

      Meanwhile the New York City Housing Authority and the NYC subway, the billion dollar trains in CA, gang ridden no-go zones, are epic failures and death spiraling examples of socialist projects. Go ahead, keep pushing the same failed fucking policies, while praising Fidel in Cuba. Workers paradise is a dream land utopia, where Tony will be the first one up against that wall.

      1. Calm down and go read about what that provision actually says.

    3. Tony
      July.30.2020 at 4:03 am
      “…What we do have going for us is a willingness to support policy targeted at reducing the number of poors altogether.”


      1. You’re like a human pull quote. Just repeat what I say and add some nonsense with no substance. Thanks Sevo!

  19. Wait, removing government imposed rules is now…unlibertarian? The Purple-Haired-One-von-Yale really fucked Reason up.

  20. Ummm, what happened to Federalism? I thought Republicans used to be for Federalism. Also, is Britschgi aware that San Francisco is the safest Blue city in the safest Blue state? Any suggestion that Trump is doing this to appeal to San Francisco voters is just nuts.

    1. This article was the journolistic version of Calvinball, do not attempt to apply logic or rationality.

  21. Only “progressives” worry about a neighborhood making progress toward becoming a nicer place to live (gentrification).

  22. “the result is less housing gets built, and housing costs go up.”

    There are lots of places to build Stalinist-style apartment blocks. You just don’t get to build them in quiet suburban single-family neighborhoods.
    I would guess that areas set aside for single family homes take up a very tiny percentage of available land. But that is not really what this is about. BLM, and other organizations, have as part of their goal, to subvert the nuclear family. That seems pretty destructive to me, and unlikely to save Black lives, but I suppose they have their reasons.

    I think we should learn to live with the fact that many people do not want to live in a place where people have to weld bars over their windows. Other people like the easy access to nightlife and restaurants that living in an urban tenement provides. Attempting to actively subvert the former is just unfair.

    1. “…There are lots of places to build Stalinist-style apartment blocks…”

      Indeed there are.
      And who is to build them at whose cost and why are they being built?

    2. How are black people going to subvert the nuclear family? Are they going to break into the homes of married couples and force them to divorce and send the kids away?

      1. Read what BLM says about it and ask them. They are the ones who are advocating that view about nuclear families.

      2. You get a half-right on this, but mostly because you are apparently quick on your feet with the website info.

        The Movement for Black Lives website (m4bl.org), parent organization for BLM had, until very recently, an explicit statement that the nuclear family model was anti-black. I wish I had printed it out. Perhaps their thoughts have changed, or perhaps they have simply gotten smart enough not to put out their agenda: anti-capitalist, anti-western, anti-nuclear family.

        (For the record, I don’t give a bleep about what one’s family structure it, but m4bl brought it up, so it’s fair game.)

  23. Has anyone seen a low income government housing being built and was around long enough to see the out come? When I was young I saw these buildings being built in a nice area they cleared with trees and when they finished they looked really nice. I knew why they were building them and after seeing some of the dwellings in certain parts of the city that it was great they were going to be able to live in such nice places. In 5 years they no longer looked as nice and crime in the area had went up. In 10 years it looked like a dump with trash and broken windows and graffiti. A little more then 20 years and it was being condemned and demolished with complaints of the crime and trash. They discussed rebuilding but never did. Building low cost government housing doesn’t seem to be a good idea.

  24. What is so wrong with NIMBYism? If I and others with similar tastes decide to move to an area with many old historic houses on large lots, and every one of us (for argument’s sake) get a bylaw passed that in that area all lots shall be greater than thus and such size and total occupancy less than some number of people, and no house shall be modified or built except that from the outside it appears to have been built before 1800, who is harmed or who is coerced? Why should it be ok for the town or state to come in and say “that does not meet current standards for low income housing”? By what authority? If someone wants to live in that area, then I would have to think they want to enjoy the feel of that area (as it is), and one can not do that and force a high density housing project into it at the same time.

    What is so frickin awful about being honest and saying “not in my back yard ( or in my town). I busted my hump to be able to afford this, and if you want to live here, you can do the same.”?

    One of the few times that I find myself disagreeing with the Reason editorial slant.

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