The Corner

Obama Fires AFFH Warning Shot Over Hillary’s House

Hillary Clinton’s suburban hometown of Chappaqua, New York has just become ground zero in the Obama administration’s efforts to nullify local control over America’s housing. Obama’s Justice Department has fired a powerful warning shot at Westchester County, New York, where the administration is conducting a dry run of its new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation.

At issue is whether Westchester’s obligation to “affirmatively further fair housing” compels county officials to crush local opposition to a low-income housing development in downtown Chappaqua.

The Draconian legal settlement imposed on Westchester several years ago by the Obama administration creates a court-appointed “monitor” who has effectively usurped Westchester County’s right to democratic self-governance. The monitor insists, and Obama’s Department of Justice agrees, that Westchester County officials must not only obtain financing for new low-income housing developments in Chappaqua, but must suppress local opposition to the project.

Justice Department officials have just asked a court to impose massive fines if Westchester officials don’t compel the local town council to approve a low-income housing development in Chappaqua. Westchester officials are to be forced to put a letter endorsing the Chappaqua project on the county’s website, and to publish the same letter in the Sunday edition of the local paper. Westchester County is further instructed to write monthly letters to the town of New Castle inquiring after the status of the Chappaqua project and asking why approvals haven’t been granted. County officials are also to be forced to attend all local public hearings regarding the project. In other words, In order to force federal diktat on Hillary’s hometown, the elected officials of Westchester County are to be turned into puppets of the Obama administration. And if Westchester and New Castle/Chappaqua don’t give in, the massive and ever-increasing fines paid by the county are to be used to build even more low-income housing in the area.

Ned McCormack, a spokesman for Westchester’s Republican County Executive Rob Astorino, rightly says, “The [Department of Justice]’s position seems to be that democracy and due process don’t apply when it comes to Westchester’s housing settlement.” McCormack then adds, “This behavior appears to be a harbinger for what the rest of the nation can expect under HUD’s new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rules.”

Exactly. The intrusive questionnaire that local officials applying for HUD funding have to fill out under AFFH asks them to identify any local opposition to low income housing projects. These filings could then be used to hold federal funds hostage, or perhaps to file suits against localities like the one the feds have pressed against Westchester. In other words, AFFH comes close to institutionalizing the idea that local government officials must treat their own constituents as a kind of illegitimate opposition to be overcome.

With Chappaqua now the epicenter of opposition to the Obama administration’s controversial housing policies, it now becomes incumbent on reporters to put several questions to Hillary Clinton. Does Hillary Clinton favor the low-income housing project under debate in Chappaqua? Does Hillary Clinton see the Obama administration’s orders against the leaders of Westchester County as a legitimate use of federal authority? Does Hillary Clinton support the Obama administration’s new rule on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing?

Stanley Kurtz — Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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