The soon-to-be-former President, in his failed attempt to appeal to voters this election, unsurprisingly decided to take a stand against fair housing. In an effort to “save the suburban lifestyle dream,” Trump repealed Obama era regulations designed to give teeth to Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH), the Fair Housing Act’s requirement that cities take affirmative steps to combat segregation. Given that Trump’s HUD never bothered to enforce the AFFH requirements, the repeal was mostly symbolic. Trump’s vision of the suburban lifestyle dream is one where wealthy, white families can live in seclusion, wield housing policy to exclude lower-income families from their enclaves, and hoard privilege for themselves and their children. Trump claimed that progressives were trying to “abolish the suburbs” and that without his leadership, lower income people would move into and “ruin” suburbs that were once designed to keep them out.
The reality we have today in California is that Trump’s vision of the suburban lifestyle dream is thriving. While some outer suburbs have diversified as families seek affordable homeownership opportunities, many of California’s inner suburbs have continued their pursuit of exclusion and privilege. Places like Los Altos, San Mateo, Lafayette, Piedmont, and Atherton have some of the most restrictive housing policies and by no coincidence, also have the highest home values and lowest Black and Latino populations. Despite California’s reputation as a leader on progressive policies, we remain actively engaged in the pursuit of Trump’s suburban lifestyle dream.
As the first organization founded to sue the suburbs, I thought we should probably explain our goals and plan for the suburbs. Are we trying to abolish the suburbs? Which suburbs are we talking about when we say sue the suburbs? What is our vision for the suburbs?
The answer is simple: while we don’t want to abolish the suburbs, we very much want to dismantle this vision of the suburban lifestyle. Suburbs should be affordable, inclusive, and welcoming for everyone, not gated communities defined by abundant parking and six-figure salaries. We must end the race to the bottom as suburbs compete to see who can create the most “exclusive” and wealthy subdivisions. We must fight segregation by giving families of all races, incomes, and structures the opportunity to choose where they want to live.
While we still have a ways to go, we are pushing for policies that will lead us to a better, more sustainable, more inclusive vision of the suburbs:
- Higher housing production goals for all incomes in exclusive neighborhoods will force suburbs to zone for more affordable housing.
- Widespread adoption and promotion of Accessory Dwelling Units can provide a naturally affordable source of rental housing in the most exclusive communities.
- Ensure that all cities do their part to find homes for California’s unsheltered population.
- Providing a quick and easy approval process for mixed income developments in cities that are behind on their housing goals, preventing neighborhood opposition from stalling these much-needed developments.
- Ensuring that no California city can claim immunity from statewide housing policy reforms.
- Ending the all-too-common practice of using frivolous lawsuits to prevent new housing development.
For decades, cities got away with segregationist land-use and experienced no consequences for it. Trump further enabled this. With its deep roots over such a long history, there is no silver bullet to our housing crisis; but together, these steps move California toward a better, more inclusive future for our suburbs. We know that with continued effort and advocacy, along with future legislation in Sacramento and locally, we can finally abolish Trump’s suburban lifestyle dream and adopt a different dream, one that includes everyone.
As you may know, lawsuits are expensive; getting our San Mateo appeal to the court of appeals has already cost nearly $100,000. As a non-profit of two, we run a tight ship and our overhead is incredibly low, but nonetheless we need your support to make it happen. With your charitable contribution to CaRLA, we can build the California dream that so many have been promised. Support us on Giving Tuesday with a donation. This is a marathon and not a sprint, so If you’ve already made your annual one-time donation please consider signing up for a recurring donation. We’re California’s housing watchdogs and together we can make cities experience consequences once again.