06.17.2015 1

Did Julian Castro lie to Congress on HUD racial zoning rule?

By Robert Romano

“This is not about changing zoning laws, planning laws — anything like that.”

That was Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro before the House Financial Services Committee under questioning by Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), assuring members that an imminent rulemaking, “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing,” will not interfere with local zoning decisions.

Yet, that is precisely what the rule does, according to the Federal Register, directing program participants including municipalities “to examine relevant factors, such as zoning and other land-use practices that are likely contributors to fair housing concerns, and take appropriate actions in response.”

Including changing zoning practices thought to be contributing to segregation.

Rep. Love noted, who once served as mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, appealed to Castro, who was once mayor of San Antonio, Texas, saying, “I know that as a mayor you wouldn’t want the federal government coming in to tell you what to do with your zoning laws and with your rules because you have more skin in the game. You have more of an incentive to take care of the people that live in your areas. You’re the boots on the ground.”

The rule interferes with zoning by conditioning eligibility for community development block grants upon compliance with the rule — which on its face will require redrawing zoning maps to achieve racial and income integration when a municipality is not in compliance. In 2012, HUD dispersed about $3.8 billion of these grants to almost 1,200 municipalities.

HUD has also proposed the “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Assessment Tool” “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.”

In preparation for implementing the regulation, HUD has 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.”

Julian Castro simply did not tell the truth about how “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” will impact local zoning decisions. Rep. Love deserves credit for exposing what amounts to a cover-up by the HUD Secretary.

All of which vindicates the House of Representatives’ June 9 229-193 vote in favor of an amendment to the Transportation and HUD appropriations bill by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) defunding implementation of the rule, which Rep. Love voted for.

The legislation now moves to the Senate, where last year Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) offered the same amendment.

In the meantime, for those communities considering taking community development block grants this year — Julian Castro’s testimony to the contrary notwithstanding — just know that that federal money comes with an eraser aimed directly at your community’s zoning plans.

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

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