A tweet from the president followed the HUD announcement, “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,” President Donald Trump tweeted a few days later.
“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 I have rescinded the Obama-Biden AFFH Rule.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 Trump tweets continued: “The “suburban housewife” will be voting for me. They want safety & are thrilled that I ended the long-running program where low-income housing would invade their neighborhood. Biden would reinstall it, in a bigger form, with Corey Booker in charge!"
These comments are out of touch with what we in suburbia believe. It assumes a Stepford wives’ mentality of suburban women. It doesn’t recognize that the protests and marches following George Floyd’s death show a genuine desire and commitment from white suburban moms and their children to join with their African American and Latinx neighbors to show solidarity and a shared belief in a vibrant and welcoming community. This commitment was reflected in Westchester’s County Executive’s strong response to the Trump/Carson announcement. His words, quoted here in Patch. https://patch.com/new-york/whiteplains/latimer-denounces-trumps-elimination-fair-housing-regs.
Westchester’s top not for profit housing professionals came together, providing an informed response to the dissolution of AFFH. The rebuttal is on our website, with this link. https://www.alliedcommunity.org/news
Both Peter Russell, ACE’s President, and I, ACE’s Executive Director, penned two different pieces after reading the wall street journal’s op-ed. The notion that the suburbs are an impending disaster is simply not true. Here are our responses.
To the Editor.I am responding to the Opinion piece published on August 16, 2020, in the Journal by Dr. Carson and Mr. Trump. There are many untruths in their statements. As an affordable housing professional for almost 40 years, as the Executive Director of a Not for Profit organization, Allied Community Enterprises, ACE, I confronted the politics and the issues of housing in Westchester. I seek to counter the allegations in this opinion piece.
Today, the Journal published an Opinion piece penned by Dr. Carson and Mr. Trump. There were so many untruths in the article, this could take many hours to refute all of the fake allegations, but I thought it worthwhile to counter some of these fabrications and dog whistles as soon as possible.
America’s suburbs are not under attack by outsiders. Those of us involved in housing in Westchester and other colleagues across the country accept the fair housing belief that everyone should have the opportunity to live where they want regardless of their race or creed.
Democratic cities are not crime-ridden and in chaos. This is a myth that the current administration wants to lay on the public. The only plan afoot is for the current administration to cast Democrats as the far left and evildoers. It is incumbent on the current administration to paint doom and gloom, conveying an Armageddon's image.
Words like, "we won't allow this to happen" and "stopped" convey a top-down authoritarian stance, not how democracy goes about doing its business.
It is an outright lie to say that HUD ( the Obama HUD,?) wants to abolish single-family zoning and that the same HUD wanted to put "Stac and Pack " apartment buildings in residential neighborhoods. We heard this in Westchester under the former County Executive, provoking fear in the citizenry, which only added to the rejection of sound planning and much-needed housing.
The suburbs are, in fact, under attack – from within. Without diversity of its population and housing stock, to allow for a diverse and healthy economy, the suburbs will wither and die.
The so-called left wants to see that suburbs, cities, and rural America survive and flourish. America's citizenry realizes that we need to work together to make our country have an optimistic tomorrow.
There was no mandate to build 11,000 low-income high-density apartments in Westchester. Those of us who live and work in Westchester know this to be untrue.
For nine years, Westchester County was under a consent decree and a settlement to create much needed affordable housing in Westchester, particularly in the communities where there were high concentrations of the white population and very few black or Hispanic. Significant progress was made. The 750 units of mandated affordable housing were created. There should have been more. Seven hundred fifty units did not approach the housing need, which is over 11,000 units.
Throughout the country, Americans are trying to figure out how to solve the lack of affordable housing. They seek creative, non-invasive ways to find new homes. Large scale developments are invasive and costly to resources and the environment.
The dystopian vision today is of vacant commuter parting lots, empty stores, and swelling unemployment. The United States of America could not control the pandemic on its very own shores. That is truly dystopian. At the end of the pandemic, there will be much needed federal policy to adapt to new changes.
That the Federal Government in a Biden presidency would be in charge of local decisions is another lie. Tell that to local planners, municipal zoning and other commissions, and general citizenry deeply involved in their community's fabric. It is the local authorities that govern zoning and planning with the advice and consent of its citizens. The role of the Federal Government should be to encourage, not discourage, to provide much-needed funding, and to canvas the country for best practices. Rather than resort to race-baiting pitting suburbs against cities, cities against suburbs, and the nation's rural areas, the Federal Government should hold to a high standard of collaboration, not denigration. Joan P. Arnold
The Threat Posed by Republican Administration Officials Claiming, “We’ll Protect America’s Suburbs.” (Wall Street Journal op-ed dated August 16, 2020)
American citizens who live in the suburbs are fully capable of developing and maintaining healthy communities that complement their rural and urban counterparts without bogus claims of protection from those who threaten in this op-ed to divide city-dwellers from those who live elsewhere. Americans, with the essential cooperation and financial support of all levels of government, are capable of planning and managing wise responses to the local social and economic challenges such as land use, housing, and infrastructure requirements facing all citizens as a result of historical development patterns, technological change and external forces such as the pandemic. These are common challenges for rural, exurban, suburban, and urban communities. Americans recoil at the notion posed by the writers of the WSJ op-ed that they must be “protected” from other Americans who happen to live in a different neighborhood.
While we can not really imagine that housing secretary Carson and President Trump actually wrote this article, it is truly dispiriting to see them put their names to such a hodge-podge of dog-whistles, worn-out prejudices, and inaccuracies, not to mention embarrassingly self-demeaning language.
Please put aside for a moment the op-ed’s hyperbolic claims of nefarious plans for “unprecedented federal disruption of the suburbs,” raising property tax, and a “dystopian vision of building low-income housing units next to your suburban house.” Also, put aside the faulty reference to Westchester County’s experience, which in fact accomplished the goal of additional affordable housing and has gone on to spell out additional fair and affordable housing goals inits the 2019 Housing Needs Assessment report.
Let’s hear from some non-partisan voices who have researched, studied, and developed real-world responses to the critical residential needs in many regions of our country.
JPMorgan Chase, in its recent publication, Promoting Inclusive Neighborhoods: https://impact.jpmorganchase.com/content/dam/jpmc/jpmorgan-chase-and-co/documents/55729-jpmc-communities-brochure-ada.pdfsstates, “A key focus of our strategy is promoting affordable housing. This is driven by our belief that housing individuals and families can afford, in proximity to economic opportunity and basic services, is the cornerstone of vibrant and resilient neighborhoods”. Entities like this bank and many other firms across the country recognize that the country responds with an array of effective strategies and financing measures to preserve and create new housing and expand access to homeownership in both urban and surrounding regions. The report notes that “Only 37% affordable rental homes are available for every 100 low-income rental households in the 50 largest metropolitan areas”. Contrary to the op-ed's narrow view, most American citizens understand that these are real barriers to our common and shared economic and social goals.
The authors note, “ ..many African- Americans today remain situated in communities with the lowest prospects for upward mobility”. “This concentration is not accidental…. influences ranging from discrimination and intimidation to lender behavior, to white flight from cities, to public policies like redlining or highway construction all combined to keep the African-American population more concentrated in particular communities”. “While many of the most egregious policies designed to promote and encourage racial discrimination have been outlawed, research has shed light on the ways that their effects linger and interact with contemporary policies.” How did the authors so well anticipate this op-ed’s threat to take us backward?
Opportunity Insights, a non-partisan, data-centric research group at Harvard University, in its paper creating Moves to Opportunity https://opportunityinsights.org/paper/cmto/explores the dynamics of families finding new ways to make a move to high-opportunity neighborhoods with enduring beneficial outcomes. In a 2018-19 experiment with over 400 families, they documented how a program of a) customized search assistance, b) increased landlord engagement, and c) modest, short-term financial assistance effectively supported mobility to neighborhoods where children have a historical record of higher economic outcomes.
In other words, encouraging all citizens to seek opportunities for a full range of neighborhood choices is fundamentally fair and economically positive for the country, whether we live in a suburb or any other residential environment. Americans from all walks of life understand this truth, regardless of the threats made in the WSJ op-ed.
August 29, 2020, Edward W. Russell, member of the board, Allied Community Enterprises (ACE), Affordable Homes, Strong Communities
Sadly, the RNC’s convention echos these theme with one of the speeches coming from the St. Louis couple who stood bearing arms as a Black Lives Matter protest marched by their property, stating that They ( the Democrats, the Who?) are not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence in our communities. They want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning. This forced zoning would bring crime, lawlessness and low-quality apartments into thriving suburban neighborhoods.” Patty McCloskey of St. Louis, MO. August 24, 2020.
Folks who know ACE and those who are supporters acknowledge our aversion to the words ”those people” and “they”. We believe in “We”.
In an ever-changing world of pandemics and economic turmoil, of closed schools and online shopping devastating our downtowns, we must be creative in planning our towns, villages, and cities. We must explore ways to reinvent ourselves and where we live. To do this, all levels of government have to be supportive and engaged. When the federal government says it is pulling out to give us more independence and freedom, it is really suggesting no funds, no involvement, and no support is forthcoming. That is not more freedom, it is a disaster.
The ending of the AFFH Rule is another way for Washington to shirk its responsibility to communities across this nation. Where we need downtown dwellings to keep stores, restaurants and services alive, the Trump/Carson decision will leave vacant stores, empty buildings and a shortage of housing so that our children cannot afford to live in the communities they call home and our parents will be unable to age in place. It will mean that our first responders and essential workers will be unable to live in the communities they serve and have come to love and that their children will not benefit from their hard work and commitment to building and maintaining our standard of living. Our nation’s future is tied up with our communities. If our hometowns do not reflect the America we want, the America we want will never be the America we have. The policies of division, and prejudice are the policies Westchester and much of the United States are repelled by. ACE and the other leading housing agencies in this county will challenge HUD and the White House on this rule change and do all we can to continue making Westchester an extraordinary place to live and work for all.
Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) is not a new rule. Rather, it has been the law of the land since the Fair Housing Act was enacted in 1968. It is, importantly, a long-overdue and much-needed attempt to ensure that all people have equal opportunity to live free from discrimination in decent, accessible housing. The Fair Housing Act requires HUD to administer its programs in a manner "affirmatively to further" the purposes of the Fair Housing Act. It took until 2015 for HUD to promulgate regulations implementing the law. In the interim, however, significant case law developed providing a framework and guide for local communities to unravel segregation, foster inclusion and, as then-Secretary Castro said, “provide all Americans with access to safe, affordable housing in communities that are rich in opportunity.” Under the 2015 regulation, communities were provided with data, tools and technical assistance to carry out fair housing planning. Jurisdictions were required to receive input from the public about local patterns of segregation and integration and disparities in access to resources like education, hospitals and amenities such as pools. The regulation addresses the systemic discrimination existing in housing and provided a science-based method for overcoming segregation and using community input to design neighborhoods where all people would have fair and equal access to housing.
It called for “targeted investments in revitalizing areas, as well as increased housing choice in areas of opportunity….”
The requirement for jurisdictions to certify compliance with the AFFH continued. January, 2020, HUD proposed a new regulation for public comments. That proposal received some 19,000 comments, many concerned that it significantly watered down the intent of the original regulation, and stripped the public of the opportunity to participate in planning their own communities. The comments to this regulation were apparently ignored.
Thinking about Affordable Housing in Northern Westchester
"I learned about the need for affordable housing in our nearby communities through a parishioner at church who had volunteered and been on the board of A-HOME. Since that time I have served on the boards of both A-HOME and ACE and been pleased to see that other friends and family members have continued to volunteer for these non-profits important for our communities. Through board service and other activities in support of the mission of these organizations, I have also gained an understanding of the critical and on-going contributions of other groups such as the Housing Action Council and Community Capital of New York. I have been inspired by the opportunity to meet and in some cases get to know staff and the residents and first-time home buyers of homes created with support of these groups. I remain interested in the public policy dimension of affordable housing. I am disappointed and perplexed by the limited level of governmental support for the creation and maintenance of affordable housing. The official support available relies excessively on the initiative and constrained finances of non-profits, and it is further limited by overly complex approval and financial assistance structures and procedures."
Meet Betsy Weir. Betsy lives in Katonah and is active in the Katonah Bedford Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps and sits on the Town of Bedford’s Conservation Board. Betsy is a member of the Ethical Culture Society in Ossining.She is retired from Westchester County and is ACE’s treasurer. When I was looking for a place to live, I told the real estate agents that I hoped to find a neighborhood like New York City’s Upper West Side, where there were old people and young people and rich people and poor people; someplace where everyone was not just the same. Mixed neighborhoods feel right to me. Worth maintaining and worth creating!