Should Americans be able to choose what kind of housing is built in their neighborhoods and communities, or should politicians and bureaucrats in Washington do that, dividing us by race, class, and ethnicity to meet their utopian visions of “social justice”? That’s what’s at stake right now with President Obama’s shamefully under-covered Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule (AFFH) — if Senator Mike Lee can’t stop it this week with an amendment to a HUD funding bill that would defund the rule’s enforcement.
Ironically, Hillary Clinton’s hometown is one of the communities most in HUD’s crosshairs. Perhaps some reporter could bother to ask her whether she thinks the Obama administration is correct to effectively declare her hometown to be practicing racist and discriminatory policies in need of federal correction.
If AFFH is allowed to stay in place, local government will soon be under assault throughout the country. Yet few Americans have heard of AFFH, a rule that my NRO colleague Stanley Kurtz (who has done yeoman’s work reporting on it over the past year) called “arguably the most radical, transformative” initiative the Obama administration has ever undertaken. While given the radicalism of this administration that’s quite a statement, I may well agree with him. While conservatives are busy being distracted by the latest liberal newly invented “culture war” over bathrooms, liberals are attacking the entire concept of community self-governance in America.
AFFH undercuts the independence of suburbs, towns, and small cities by forcing them to make up for supposed “imbalances” in the racial, ethnic, and class composition of their greater metropolitan regions. Under AFFH, the many suburbs and towns that take grant money from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will be forced to change their zoning codes and build high-density, low-income housing for “underrepresented” groups. Suburbs may even be forced to relocate planned schools, transportation hubs, and business districts to answer to the federal bureaucracy’s ideas of ethnic, racial, and economic “balance.” Basically, the Obama administration wants to punish, control, and fundamentally transform communities that, in its estimation, are too white or too affluent. As Kurtz demonstrates, it’s also a blatantly illegal re-writing of the Fair Housing Act, with no basis in the original text or intent.
This is bureaucratic overreach on a grand scale. AFFH undercuts America’s most cherished principles of local control and puts the federal government exactly where it doesn’t belong — in the business of telling Americans where they ought to live.
The Obama administration wants to punish, control, and fundamentally transform communities that are too white or too affluent.
Even before the new AFFH rule was released, Clinton’s home county of Westchester, N.Y., and in particular her hometown of Chappaqua, was the first place to feel the pressure of the Obama administration’s housing policies that form the blueprint for AFFH. Without any proper finding of housing discrimination, Westchester has been accused by HUD of effectively racist housing practices and forced to build low-income housing that cities and towns in Westchester don’t want. So does Hillary Clinton believe, as the Obama administration clearly does, that her hometown is practicing racist discrimination? Or does she believe that the Obama administration is engaged in an ill-conceived program of social engineering in her own backyard? And if so, why won’t she say so? Why won’t any journalists demand an answer from her? Above all, will Hillary Clinton force her hometown’s dilemma on the entire country by keeping President Obama’s new AFFH regulation in place and provide funding for it if it is defunded by the Lee amendment?
Westchester’s County Executive Robert Astorino has been a thorn in the administration’s side for years, fighting back against its bureaucratic overreach and putting the American public on notice that Westchester’s troubles would soon be shared by the nation as a whole. The Obama administration claims that it isn’t out to dismantle Westchester’s zoning laws. Yet HUD is trying to force Westchester into a “regional” approach to housing that will likely compel it to build a tremendous amount of low-income housing, marketed solely to minorities, undercutting its current zoning laws in the process. In effect, President Obama is telling Americans, “If you like your zoning, you can keep your zoning.”
#share#But America doesn’t need “Obamazoning,” which is why Lee has been joined by a small but star-studded cast of conservative senators including Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Tom Cotton in previous attempts to repeal AFFH.
Back in Westchester County, Astorino understands the stakes: “This isn’t alarmist. This is happening right here in Westchester County, and if you live in Texas, if you live in Ohio, if you live in Florida, if you live in Maine — wherever you live in the United States — you are next.”
Should the federal government be in the business of picking our neighbors and designing our neighborhoods?
Or as he so aptly put it: “The federal government’s assault on our local communities in Westchester is dumbfounding, shocking, and counterproductive. . . . HUD decides whether your neighborhood meets the quotas the agency believes represent the proper balance of race, income, education, and other demographic features. If the zip code doesn’t measure up, HUD then prescribes corrective measures, which essentially come down to running roughshod over local zoning so HUD can socially engineer the character of your community to bring it in line with its quotas.”
Does this sound like something you want in your community? Or anywhere in America? Should the federal government be in the business of picking our neighbors and designing our neighborhoods? As Senator Lee has said, we don’t need a national zoning board. That isn’t fair housing — something everyone should support. It’s the exact opposite.
HUD’s overreach can be dramatic: In the case of Dubuque, Iowa, HUD claimed that the city was being discriminatory simply for preferring city and state residents for its own public housing over applicants from out of state. Rather than properly address any incidents of actual housing discrimination, by effectively treating Dubuque, Iowa, as a part of the greater Chicago region, HUD was able to force Dubuque to accept minority applicants from almost 200 miles away out of state, in preference to town and state residents.
Americans of all races, incomes, and backgrounds should have the freedom to choose where they want to live, and make sure communities can control their own zoning, rather than surrendering to federal government diktats. The Obama administration has a lot to answer for in pursuing housing policies based on bean-counting by race, ethnicity, and class. Senator Lee’s amendment is a vital attempt to stop this blatant federal government overreach. (Unfortunately, just yesterday, Senator Susan Collins of Maine offered up a kabuki-theater amendment that pretends to gut AFFH but will actually do nothing.) It’s time to say no to Obamazoning. It’s time to pass the Lee amendment as a first step toward eliminating this pernicious rule once and for all. And it’s time for Hillary Clinton to speak up and tell the American public where she stands on the federal outrage taking place in her own backyard.