It is reasonable for communities across this country to have principled policy debates over the utility of multifamily and single-family housing. But that debate should be hammered out with data, opportunity and equity in mind, not the 2020 election.

President Donald Trump has doubled down on his pledge to roll back an Obama-era regulation designed to eliminate racial disparities in the suburbs. In that moment, he devolved a policy debate into divisive racial politics. Earlier this month, Trump said the regulation “will totally destroy the beautiful suburbs” and demolish property values by forcing low-income housing construction in suburban areas.

As we noted in our editorial tribute to the late congressman and civil rights advocate John Lewis, the nation must continue to seek equity and opportunity for all. However, equity and opportunity for all will remain elusive if people don’t have access to jobs and housing that in many instances have moved from cities into suburbs.

Aside from its ugly undertones, Trump’s plan to end the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule is misplaced. The Obama-era rule required local governments to track patterns of poverty and segregation and included a checklist of 92 issues that had to be addressed before communities could obtain certain federal housing funds.

The rule wisely recognized that segregated housing patterns exist in Dallas and nearly every urban and suburban community decades after the Fair Housing Act of 1968 made racial discrimination a violation of federal law.

Under the Trump administration, federal housing strategies have shifted from traditional efforts to integrate lower-income housing into wealthier neighborhoods in favor of promoting more housing development overall. The administration contends that simplifying the process for cities to meet fair housing requirements would increase the housing pool.

But budgets suggest priorities. Federal investments in affordable housing have been slashed, not bolstered under Trump. And now, the president’s recent comments about suburbs under attack are reasons to question his commitment to improving housing policy.

The result of housing policy should be to promote economic mobility. Just as a ZIP code can shape a child’s future, countless studies show that where one lives affects job and educational opportunities and, ultimately, economic mobility. And that’s why housing policy matters greatly to the country’s future.

It is possible to mount principled conservative arguments about the effectiveness of past programs, including whether mandates inhibit the creation of affordable housing. The president has chosen racial fear over a discussion of how best to make sure that the promises of housing and opportunity are fulfilled.

FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS