The Corner

White House

Trump Ends AFFH

President Donald Trump delivers a speech following a tour of Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wis., June 25, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

I am pleased to report that President Trump and Secretary Carson have together put an end to the Obama-Biden administration’s wildly radical Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule. President Trump has delivered on this issue in a way that will preserve American liberty in general, and the freedom and self-government of America’s suburbs in particular.

There was simply no basis in the Fair Housing Act of 1968 for Obama-Biden’s vast AFFH project in social engineering. Since the passage of FHA, the idea of “affirmatively furthering fair housing” has been written into law, but even those later laws authorize nothing like the Obama-Biden overreach. It is a sign of the malady that besets our government that a statement originally intended to call forth vigilance against housing discrimination (“affirmatively furthering fair housing”) has been larded over with meanings it never contained: economic integration, hyper-dense “transit oriented development,” hostility to automobiles in the name of global warming, regional (rather than local) governance, and more.

Duly authorized by President Trump, Secretary Carson has swiftly taken steps to root out Obama’s radical rule, along with the bogus accretions that have developed over decades around the idea of “affirmatively furthering fair housing.” Many bemoan a so-called ratchet effect, in which government grows ever larger—or perhaps plateaus—but never gets smaller. Let this be an example to the public and to future presidents that the ratchet effect can be fought.

The partisan “mainstream” press and leftist housing activists are going to scream bloody murder when they see Obama’s AFFH go down. No doubt there will be lawsuits as well. But President Trump and Secretary Carson have done everything that can be done to return the obligation to “affirmatively further fair housing” to where it belongs, given existing statutes. That is a tremendous accomplishment. The Obama-Biden administration’s most radical measure has at last been stripped away. Don’t let them tell you it was only carrying out the law. Obama’s AFFH was actually only carrying out the wishes of radical-left housing activists under guise of the law. Now the charade is over.

Don’t doubt that all of that will change should Biden win this November. That would spell the return of the old AFFH, with turbo-charging. In fact, if the Dems take congress as well as the presidency the most radically anti-suburban aspects of AFFH will likely all be written into law. That means the new anti-suburban regime will only be undone if the Republicans retake both congress and the presidency down the road.

The very existence of suburbs as we know them is now at issue. I’ve made that case at book length, in extended articles, and in a brief column summarizing the stakes for the suburbs in this election. The Democrats don’t want to talk about what is actually in Obama’s AFFH. It isn’t about preventing housing discrimination. Obama-Biden’s AFFH is about telling Americans where—and how—to live.

The battle lines are sharply drawn. This is set to be a major issue in the election. What’s needed now is a presidential speech explaining what Obama-Biden’s AFFH really did, why it was right to end it, and what will happen to the suburbs if Joe Biden brings his AFFH back. With this act of ending Biden’s AFFH, the toothpaste is out of the tube. Soon enough, I suspect, the policy battle over this issue will be well and truly joined.

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

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