11.20.2014 2

‘Fundamentally transforming America’ one neighborhood at a time

HUD_chart1

By Robert Romano

Let’s just be blunt. If Congressional Republicans do not defund the imminent rulemaking, “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing,” by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the upcoming continuing resolution, they are utterly insane.

The rule, now delayed into December, is nothing short of a national, government-directed gerrymandering regime to redraw the zoning of every single neighborhood in the U.S. on the basis of race and income that accepts any portion of community development block grants.

In 2012, HUD dispersed about $3.8 billion of these grants to almost 1,200 municipalities.

Conditioning those grants on rezoning will generate obvious political outcomes, namely, to turn what were once Republican districts — which tend to be higher income and white not because of racism but rather economics and regional demographics — into marginal, purple districts under the guise of providing “fair housing.”

Segregation assessment tool revealed

One need look no further than HUD’s unleashing its “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Assessment Tool,” with comments due by November 24. HUD has also released template racial rezoning maps and data tables to be used in each community development block grant recipient area.

The tool’s worksheet orders the assessing bureaucrat using the maps and data to “identify neighborhoods or areas in the jurisdiction and region where racial/ethnic groups are segregated and indicate the predominant groups for each.”

Additionally, the bureaucrat must identify the extent the following factors “contribut[e] to segregated housing patterns” including “Land use and zoning laws, such as minimum lot sizes, limits on multi-unit properties, height limits, or bedroom-number limits as well as requirements for special use permits; Occupancy restrictions; Residential real estate steering; Patterns of community opposition; Economic pressures, such as increased rents or land and development costs; Major private investments; Municipal or State services and amenities; and Foreclosure patterns.”

According to HUD, the tool is “for use by each program participant to evaluate fair housing choice in its jurisdiction, to identify barriers to fair housing choice at the local and regional levels, and to set and prioritize fair housing goals to overcome such barriers and advance fair housing choice.”

Why would HUD take it upon itself to do all this?

It’s all there in black and white in HUD’s so-called “user-friendly guide”: “For too many people, housing choices can be constrained through housing discrimination, the operation of housing markets, investment choices by holders of capital, the history and geography of regions, and patterns of development and the built environment. These factors and others can result in segregation, racially concentrated areas, poverty, and unequal access to vital community assets that can shape life outcomes.”

Got that? The “operation of housing markets” and the “investment choices by holders of capital” — deciding what to build and where to build it and even choosing where you buy it — have all resulted in “segregation, racially concentrated areas, poverty, and unequal access to vital community assets.”

So, if you’ve recently bought a new or existing home in a nice neighborhood, it’s your fault. Just so we’re clear.

Yet, in all seriousness, this has nothing to do with housing discrimination, which has been illegal since the 1960s. Local rules only determine what can be built where, not who can live in a community, and yet the Obama administration apparently believes neighborhoods are “discriminatory” if they have too many nice homes to live in, good schools, and high property values.

Using federal funds to ‘transform America’

To that end, with the tool, HUD will “provide States, local governments, insular areas, and public housing agencies (PHAs), as well as the communities they serve, with local and regional data on patterns of integration and segregation; racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty (R/ECAPs); access to education, employment, low-poverty neighborhoods, transportation, and environmental health, among other critical community assets; disproportionate housing needs; and data on individuals with disabilities and families with children. Using these data, together with other available local data and local knowledge, program participants will evaluate their present environment to assess fair housing issues, identify significant determinants that influence or contribute to those issues, and set forth fair housing priorities and goals to address fair housing issues and determinants.”

This will “enable[e] program participants to improve the integration of the fair housing planning with current planning exercises.” In other words, the assessment tool will give HUD everything it needs to condition eligibility for community development block grants by redrawing the zoning of every neighborhood in the U.S. that accepts the grants.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition describes what happens if local zoning officials refuse to cooperate with HUD: “If HUD finds that an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) analysis is materially inconsistent with data readily available and relevant to the questions in the Assessment Tool, or if the priorities or goals are materially inconsistent with available local data or knowledge, HUD may find the AFH to be substantially incomplete and unacceptable. According to the proposed regulations, without an accepted AFH, a Consolidated Plan cannot be approved and a program participant could not receive Community Development Block Grant or HOME Investment Partnerships program, or some other HUD funds.”

Fundamentally racist concept

Consider all of the above. Implicitly, at its core is the fundamentally racist concept that barring a utopian, government-directed community integration on the basis of race and income it will otherwise be impossible for supposed underserved populations to build their own communities based on shared values — a good education, safety, upward mobility, and community improvement.

Further, it tells anyone who has worked hard over succeeding generations to create such neighborhoods, or saved so they could move to one, that this desire and effort in itself was inherently racist and discriminatory — since it resulted in others being left behind. To redress this grievance, now HUD apparently wants to build high-density, local income housing in those communities, too.

The House of Representatives acted on June 10, passing an amendment to the Transportation and HUD appropriations bill by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) in a 219 to 207 vote that would have defunded implementation of the regulation. In the Senate, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) proposed the same amendment.

The only problem is it got trumped by the continuing resolution funding the government into December that Congress passed earlier this year. The defund therefore must be taken up again.

And in the future, so too should Congress defund any attempted implementation of the law itself that the regulation is based upon — particularly should the practice continue. Consider, the rule has not even been finalized, but some of its requirements on grant recipients are already being implemented in a trial run in Westchester County, N.Y. and elsewhere.

HUD does so under the argument that the requirements derive not from the regulation but from the U.S. code itself, including 42 U.S.C. 3608(e)(5), 42 U.S.C. 5304, 42 U.S.C. 12705(b), and 42 U.S.C. 1437c-1.

As HUD notes in its rulemaking, “The Fair Housing Act  not only prohibits discrimination but, in conjunction with other statutes, directs HUD’s program participants to take proactive steps to overcome historic patterns of segregation, promote fair housing choice, and foster inclusive communities that are free from discrimination.”

In other words, HUD thinks it can do “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” or something like it with or without the rule.

To prevent federal rezoning of communities from continuing in the future, in the future those sections of the code will likely need to be either repealed or defunded permanently. HUD has already told us what they want to do. Now they must be stopped. Best not leave it up to the courts.

In 2008, Barack Obama promised to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” Now we know that he means to do so one neighborhood at a time.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

Copyright © 2008-2019 Americans for Limited Government