Trump campaigns on suburban preservation. Will it help him or the suburbs?

Presidential campaigns rarely push mundane housing matters like
zoning disputes or local development choices�into
the national spotlight.

But eager to win suburban voters, President Donald Trump has
brought housing policy into the national debate, taking swipes at
California lawmakers, federal anti-discrimination policies and even
efforts to allow duplexes in exclusive communities.

The renewed attention to critical housing issues — displayed
most dramatically in California — could bring new resources and
policies, but experts say the federal government holds so little
sway over local issues that efforts may come to little but sound
and fury.

“The reality is that the federal government doesn’t play a
big role in determining local development,†said Jessica
Trounstine, UC Merced professor studying housing policy and racial
disparities. She hasn’t seen much policy substance behind
Trump’s focus on the suburbs, she said, “other than finding a

Nevertheless, the president’s vow to protect the suburbs from
apartment complexes and inclusive housing could exacerbate a
growing housing crisis, policy experts say. Many advocate a
different approach to federal guidelines, aimed at alleviating
long-standing problems with segregation, racist development
policies and the shortage of affordable homes and apartments.

Chronic underbuilding has led to a national deficit of roughly

3.3 million homes across 29 states
, according to an estimate by
Freddie Mac. UC Berkeley researchers estimate California faces a
deficit of 1.8 million homes, driving Bay Area housing costs to the
highest in the nation.

Restrictive zoning has been one major hurdle to residential
development in California — and Trump broadly supported those
restrictions in a recent op-ed, during the September presidential
debate and in subsequent campaign speeches.

Trump and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson
lambasted Democrats
in a Wall Street Journal piece in August
, claiming the party
would enact policies encouraging high-density housing in suburban

“The plan is to remake the suburbs in their image so they
resemble the dysfunctional cities they now govern,†the pair
wrote. “We won’t allow this to happen.â€

Trump touted the administration’s role in reversing an
Obama-era policy requiring cities receiving HUD funds to identify
local housing policies that have led to limited opportunities for
communities of color. It also mandated cities establish meaningful
goals to change policies and offer more opportunities for
historically disadvantaged communities.

“It encouraged jurisdictions to be thoughtful and
introspective,†Trounstine said.

But the Trump administration’s policy shift was short-lived in
California. The state enacted a law in January 2019 re-establishing
the guidelines for California municipalities and added new
requirements for cities planning future development.

Trump also attacked state Sen. Scott Wiener’s proposal to
bring more density — including two, three and four-unit buildings
— into suburban neighborhoods and near job centers. Trump claimed
Wiener would end single-family home zoning. Wiener, D-San
Francisco, called the charges “an ugly and desperate attempt to
appeal to white suburbanites, who they fear are going to vote for
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris this November.â€

Wiener’s unsuccessful proposals sparked fears beyond Trump’s
rhetoric; California opponents worried about overburdened schools
and traffic-clogged roads in many communities.

Ironically, the conservative American Enterprise Institute has
also embraced a light density approach, which would allow more
homeowners to build additional houses and accessory apartments on
their properties, and let the market solve the housing shortage.
“When the federal government comes in, it’s one size fits
all,†said Edward Pinto, director of the AEI housing center.

Although Pinto disliked the Obama fair housing rules, he
shared Wiener’s approach to loosen local zoning requirements and
bring small duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes into residential
neighborhoods. He called California’s current housing policy
“bananas†or “build absolutely nothing near anyone.â€

Ernest Brown, board chairman of the pro-housing YIMBY Action,
said Trump’s arguments about preserving suburban character are
still regularly heard from opponents of new developments at city
planning and council meetings around the Bay Area. â€œIt’s
racist. It’s classist,†Brown said.

Biden’s platform calls for investing $640 billion in the next
to support safe and affordable housing. The former vice
president aims to end discriminatory zoning and lending policies
and provide more financial assistance for middle class homebuyers
and renters.

The emotional scuffles over housing policy are expected to
continue in the president’s effort to woo badly needed suburban
votes.Related Articles

Trump beat Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton among suburban
voters 47 to 45 percent in the 2016 election. But that support has
evaporated in the 2020 campaign; Biden holds a 35 point lead over
Trump among suburban voters, according to an August Marist

Trounstine also doubted the attacks would play well in the Bay
Area. Voters in Willow Glen, for example, may feel they already
have strong local influence over what gets built in their
neighborhoods, she said. They don’t need Trump’s help to stop a
project, she said, and the same is likely to hold true in similar
communities across the country.

Trump’s efforts also mischaracterize the suburbs into a 1960s
sitcom image of homogeneous neighborhoods filled with White
families and single-family homes, policy experts say.

“When Trump is talking about the suburbs, he’s talking about
a really simplistic, stereotyped vision of the suburbs,†said
Elizabeth Kneebone, research director at UC Berkeley’s Terner
Center for Housing Innovation. “It’s not true today.â€

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Most U.S. suburbs are more racially diverse, contain a mix of
single-family homes and small apartments, and have faced bouts of
economic stagnation, she said.

Kneebone said campaigns focused more on housing during the
Democratic primaries, when candidates offered platforms and plans
to address the housing disparities and shortages.

“The pandemic has shifted things,†she said. “It feels
like it was a missed opportunity to keep the focus on the housing

Others thought Trump’s warnings about creeping development
didn’t match reality — most California suburbs for decades have
failed to meet state goals for approving new housing.

“How do we protect our suburbs?†said Michael Lane, San Jose
director of SPUR, and laughed. “That’s what we’ve been doing
in California.â€

Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
Trump campaigns on suburban preservation. Will it help him
or the suburbs?