Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today called for the Trump Administration to turn over any factual information it has to support the President’s recent inflammatory and unfounded claims that the presence of affordable housing in communities leads to increased crime.
The federal government is legally required to respond to the demand, which the Attorney General made in a pair of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
The Attorney General’s action comes after President Trump tweeted on July 29: “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…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 I have rescinded the Obama-Biden AFFH Rule.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 “AFFH Rule” is a rule adopted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 2015 to “affirmatively further fair housing.”
The rule aimed to combat deep-rooted residential housing segregation by requiring localities to tackle disparities in housing opportunities; to promote the development of more inclusive communities; and to reverse historic systemic discrimination in housing, including discrimination fostered by government policies.
President Trump’s tweets echoed a similar statement by the President earlier in July 2020, when he told supporters that, under the AFFH Rule, “Your home will go down in value and crime rates will rapidly rise. … People have worked all their lives to get into a community, and now they’re going to watch it go to hell.”
“Divisive appeals to prejudice with unfounded statements blaming desegregation for crime are detached from the reality here in New Jersey and across the country,” Attorney General Grewal said. “As a prosecutor and now as New Jersey’s chief law enforcement officer, I have not seen affordable housing drive increases in criminal activity. If the President’s claims are true, show us the data. Prove it.”
“President Trump’s tweet plays on racist fears about affordable housing,” DCR Director Rachel Wainer Apter said. “The AFFH Rule aimed to combat racial segregation in residential housing and to foster inclusive communities, a goal the Trump Administration evidently deems not only unworthy but dangerous. We must not let the President take us backward.”
Today, in FOIA requests submitted today to HUD and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Attorney General Grewal calls on the agencies to provide “all research, studies or data analyses” that offer the factual basis for the President’s tweets.
The FOIA requests observe that the comments made by the President were “notably devoid of any reference to data to support his claims.”
In fact, the FOIA requests highlight a series of recent studies that conflict with the President’s claims about the effects of affordable housing on crime and property values.
For instance, a recent study in the Journal of Political Economy found that housing developments taking advantage of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) actually see “declines in both violent and property crime within low income areas” and “no impacts on crime” within higher income areas. Another study reported that LIHTC housing in distressed communities “positively impacts” surrounding neighborhoods in terms of “increased safety.”
One study focused specifically on the effects of affordable housing in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, which was the site of a major effort to promote affordable housing and desegregation. That study found that “the opening of affordable housing development was not associated with trends in crime, property values, or taxes.”
In addition to calling for the Administration to support Trumps’ claims about a connection between the AFFH Rule and higher crime rates, today’s FOIA requests call for “all e-mails, memoranda, briefings and any other written communications” exchanged between HUD and DOJ and the Executive Office of the President concerning the AFFH Rule.
Anyone who believes their fair housing rights have been violated can file a complaint with DCR by visiting njcivilrights.gov or calling 973-648-2700.