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HUD, White House Pen Op-Ed on ‘Defending Suburbs’ 

President Donald Trump and HUD Secretary Dr. Benjamin Carson co-authored an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, addressing housing-industry talking points such as affordability, single-family zoning, opportunity zones, and the President's recent campaign press to "defend the suburbs."

This topic has become a recent talking point for President Trump's campaign. The resulting op-ed skews sharply along partisan lines, with the text defending American suburbs as "thriving" and asserting that Democratic lawmakers "oppose us on rebuilding the economy, on law and order, and on school choice.” It also blames alleged crime rates in cities on the push to allow more multifamily and low-income housing in areas traditionally zoned only for single-family homes.

As one example, the authors note that HUD, under the previous administration “pressured Westchester County, New York, to change its zoning rules. Although Westchester was never found to have discriminated against anyone, HUD used the threat of withholding federal money to pressure it to raise property taxes and build nearly 11,000 low-income, high-density apartments.”

The op-ed also criticizes similar pushback against single-family zoning in areas such as Minneapolis, Oregon, and California.

In Minneapolis last year, city leaders were first to eradicate single-family zoning, while Oregon became the first state to preempt single-family zoning. It did so by requiring localities with a minimum of 10 residents to open the gates to duplexes and, in some instances, fourplexes, on each lot.

Critics of single-family zoning argue that revisiting these regulations is necessary in order to supplement the supply of affordable housing. This was a hot topic even before the pandemic, and all the more so amid the ongoing health and economic crisis. Proponents of single-family zoning argue that allowing higher-density zoning in previously single-family areas can contribute to crime and lower property values, among other issues.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, more than 10 million low-income households are severely cost burden and spend more than 50% of earning on housing.

Speaking to MReport for a recent cover story on the topic of single-family zoning, Tendayi Kapfidze, Chief Economist for LendingTree, said that, despite worries expressed by critics, removing single-family zoning does not restrict single-family homes.

“The zoning restriction creates affordability problems in many of the most desired metro areas and removing it should be a priority for cities that want to be competitive in the future,” he said. He also added that April’s data found the average existing single-family home price was $288,700, while the median condo price was $267,200. Kapfidze added “the difference is even greater for homes in the same market as condos are more often in more expensive locations.”

You can read our full coverage of the debate over single-family housing in our July 2020 MReport cover story.

About Author: Christina Hughes Babb

Christina Hughes Babb is a reporter for DS News and MReport. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, she has been a reporter, editor, and publisher in the Dallas area for more than 15 years. During her 10 years at Advocate Media and Dallas Magazine, she published thousands of articles covering local politics, real estate, development, crime, the arts, entertainment, and human interest, among other topics. She has won two national Mayborn School of Journalism Ten Spurs awards for nonfiction, and has penned pieces for Texas Monthly, Salon.com, Dallas Observer, Edible, and the Dallas Morning News, among others. Contact Christina at [email protected].

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