08/14/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 08/14/2020 11:52
On Wednesday, President Trump threatened to actively exclude and remove low-income housing from suburban communities across the country. Trump makes this threat during a moment when anti-racist Black Lives Matter demonstrations all over the country are growing in number and frequency. Additionally, his threat amplifies the stakes of the looming housing disaster, especially for low- and middle-income working-class people who rent or owe money on housing mortgages. If Congress does not enact robust government aid immediately, this disaster will intensify even further.
Trump's threat makes specific reference to his previously stated intent to end an Obama-era policy 'Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing' introduced in 2015, which was designed to make suburban communities more diverse and more accessible to minorities and low-income renters. Trump's threat is a typical 'dog whistle' tactic designed to stir up the most reactionary and racist elements in this country to stave off an electoral defeat in November.
This kind of dog whistle tactic has a long and sinister history in the USA. It is a history that has traditionally made appeals to fear in order to stoke racist sentiments in white suburbs. Dog whistling has historically masked reactionary backlash against the inclusion of poor and working-class people of color in housing communities with language that claims to abhor the 'decline of private property values,' 'the deteriorating quality of schools,' or 'rising crime rates.'
Dog whistling is a blatantly racist tactic, which has led to horrible crimes and tragedies, including anti-Black rioting and the murder of Blacks who move into suburban communities in the not-so-distant past.
The fact that Trump is currently resorting to the use of racist dog whistle tactics shows that he is becoming far more reckless in his efforts to agitate and mobilize the most reactionary section of his base in preparation for the election in November.
The CPUSA condemns this resurrection of an atavistic tactic for intensifying racist tendencies that we have always struggled against in this country. Moreover, this incident raises some other issues that involve the capitalist approach to housing.
Why should it be the case that working-class people of any race should have to worry about finding a decent place to live, with excellent schools, parks, and other amenities nearby? Why are these amenities not properly funded to benefit all sectors of our population, particularly in communities predominantly composed of poor and working-class people of color?
Why should working people have to rely on equity loans that jeopardize the security of their housing and retirement funds to ensure that their children can attend a quality university? In the current phase of capitalism, private pensions that workers fought hard to achieve over generations can disappear with the flick of a bankruptcy court judge's pen. Social Security was created during the Roosevelt administration to make sure that older workers could maintain a dignified standard of living after retirement or if disabled and no longer able to work. Yet, Social Security payments have utterly failed to keep up with the cost of living in today's world.
Major cities like Washington, DC, are seeing an extreme rise in the cost of rental housing that has pushed out working-class families that cannot afford to pay, in particular African Americans and other families of color. On top of this, these families are blocked from moving to the suburbs as a result of racist zoning laws and other policies, for example those that sharply restrict the construction of multifamily rental units, or do not allow unrelated families to share homes.
The incoming construction of the Amazon HQ2 in Arlington and Alexandria will result in an even greater exacerbation of the problem of unaffordable housing in the DC Metropolitan area. Studies by the New Virginia Majority and the Urban Institute show that the headquarters will displace 10,000 LatinX and working-class residents, while rising housing prices in the suburbs lead to 'high levels of unaffordability.'
Though Trump and the Republicans are actively stirring up racial hatred to ensure his reelection, the Democratic Party and its local leaders are not off the hook for perpetuating the housing crisis in our area. What have they done to stop gentrification, or to create new housing resources for poor and working-class families in our area? What have officials of either party done to abolish zoning laws that make it impossible to create rental housing opportunities in the communities around DC? What have they done to provide quality schools for all families other than supporting the establishment of charter schools?
As the COVID-19 pandemic devastates communities around the world, we see a new housing crisis looming on our doorsteps. Thousands of families in our area will not be able to pay their rents or mortgages on August 1. This will especially impact families with undocumented members who will not be eligible for any of the aid currently being negotiated on Capitol Hill. It will force those who are still working to continue putting themselves and their families at risk of infection. This situation harms the health and well-being of our entire community, even beyond those directly victimized by the displacement tactics of local and federal governments.
The DC Metro area must adopt a totally new approach to housing for the people, one that allows everybody to have a secure home without paying ruinous costs. Control of rental housing should be taken away from the exploitative corporate landlords and management companies and turned over to the collective control of the residents. Zoning laws that deliberately limit the availability of housing for minority families should be forbidden, as should speculation that drives gentrification. Most of all, public funds currently wasted on the military budget, giveaways to big corporations, and tax breaks for the super-rich should be repurposed to provide funding for public needs. These needs include large-scale construction of new, eco-friendly housing available to all poor and working-class people, regardless of immigration status.
With unity, organization, and struggle, this can and will be done.
Statement issued by the Butler-Robeson Metro DC Club, Communist Party USA.
Image: DC Tenants Union.