(By Joy Overbeck, ’76 Contributor) If you worked hard to raise your family in a lovely home in a nice, safe, middle-class suburb, don’t get too comfortable in your hammock. Obama’s Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has plans to “fundamentally transform” your neighborhood by importing low-income city-dwellers into your community using the muscle of a new 377-page Housing and Urban Development rule book ominously titled Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH). Incredible, preposterous, outrageous, and yet, on the march.
Not content with spreading the wealth, our president is magnanimously intent on spreading the poverty, too, right into your cul de sac. According to HUD, if your family home sits on a quarter-acre property, your neighborhood is potentially discriminatory. It would be much less racist if a high-rise low-income apartment building went up next door, local zoning regulations be damned. And that’s precisely what HUD’s new rules do – basically eliminate the whole concept of local control, town councils, local zoning boards — in favor of what unelected bureaucrats in D.C. think your community should look like. If you like your neighborhood, HUD will decide if you can keep it.
There’s another agenda here besides naked class envy. Our rulers, perpetually on the prowl for ever more Democrat voters, have noticed that the big cities reliably robo-vote in unison for their side while the suburbs tend to remain stubbornly conservative and Republican. Solution? Export those lefty city dwellers out of the mean streets into the land of green velvet lawns and three-car garages, all in the name of leveling the home field. And presto, suddenly a new invasion of Democrat voters – among them the low income, no income, welfare-dependent, gang members, homeless, and illegal immigrants –to turn the suburbs left.
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 for nearly 50 years has prohibited discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, or handicap. No matter; it doesn’t go far enough according to HUD, because “fairness” and “social justice” in their utopian world mean everybody should be able to live anywhere they want, regardless of their ability to afford living there. And the big, benevolent government is more than eager to help them do just that. This is the brave new corollary to the “everybody should be able to own a home” fantasy that doomed the nation to the 2008 recession, the hangover of which we are still suffering.
The pumped-up HUD rules require any town or county receiving HUD funds to conduct a lengthy analysis of its housing by race, national origin, ethnicity, English proficiency, income and other factors, then issue a report to prove it is “affirmatively furthering fair housing.” HUD will decide if there’s any “imbalance”– that is, hidden discrimination — in who lives where and what access they have to schools, public transportation, parks, and jobs. And HUD will decide what the locality must do about any “disparate impact” – for example, zoning laws favoring home ownership rather than renting could give HUD ammo for a lawsuit, dictating zoning changes and construction of new government-subsidized apartment units in middle-class or upper-class suburbia.
Quoting Stanley Kurtz, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, in his comprehensive July 20 analysis of the AFFH rules for National Review:
“Even with no allegation or evidence of intentional discrimination, the mere existence of a demographic imbalance in the region as a whole must be remedied by a given suburb. Suburbs will literally be forced to import population from elsewhere, at their own expense and in violation of their own laws. In effect, suburbs will have been annexed by a city-dominated region, their laws suspended and their tax money transferred to erstwhile non-residents. And to make sure the new high-density housing developments are close to ‘community assets’ such as schools, transportation, parks, and jobs, bedroom suburbs will be forced to develop mini-downtowns. In effect, they will become more like the cities their residents chose to leave in the first place.”
The new rules were introduced by the Obama administration in July, 2013, and will take effect in October of this year. But in Westchester County, a collection of middle class and wealthy suburbs in northern New York state, the HUD bulldozer is already revving up to destroy a way of life.
In a court case few years ago, HUD and Westchester reached a settlement for the mostly-white county to build 750 affordable housing units to correct its “imbalance.” Although the project is ahead of schedule, now HUD is demanding a target of 10,768 housing units, almost 15 times the original agreement. County Executive Robert P. Astorino is livid at the federal takeover and the government’s demand that he sue each of Westchester’s 31 municipalities. The huge additional number of units raises the cost to taxpayers from the original $51 million to $2 billion, says Astorino: “We would have to raise county property taxes 200 percent, with no proof whatever that Westchester zoning is discriminatory.” Schools, classroom size, roads, and basic services will feel the pressure of thousands of additional residents, too. Meanwhile, HUD has been withholding $12 million so far in promised funds to help with these problems, according to Astorino. “Our zoning isn’t exclusionary depending on race, it’s economics; people live where they choose and can afford.”
But of course that’s precisely the problem for a committed community organizer like Obama. Stanley Kurtz’ book, Spreading the Wealth: How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities, explains how young Barack absorbed the suburb-hating mantra from his Alinskyite gurus who blamed suburban flight for loss of tax dollars and urban poverty. Today radical David Rusk, author of Cities Without Suburbs, is an influential Obama administration advisor.
How to stop the invasion of the city-dwellers? In June the House approved a measure sponsored by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) that blocks any HUD funding to enforce AFFH. Senator Mike Lee of Utah plans to offer something similar in the Senate, but its fate is uncertain. Meanwhile, Kurtz urges citizens to put pressure on their representatives to rescind the AFFFA rules and support Rep. Gosar’s new bill, the Local Zoning and Property Rights Protection Act of 2015 (HR 1995) that cancels AFFH.
Westchester County’s Rob Astorino is mulling taking HUD to court: “HUD thinks it can strip away our Constitutional rights and our zoning. I say nothing gives HUD the right to turn the American dream upside down…”
Bill and Hillary Clinton happen to live in a multi-million dollar mansion in Chappaqua, New York, a wealthy suburb that happens to be located in Westchester County. Their town is over 90% white, and only about 1% black. Surely a presidential contender fighting for the little guy would agree that fairness and social justice dictate some of those low-income housing units, maybe a 5-story section 8 apartment building, be built down the block. But wait: HUD head Julian Castro is being touted as Hillary’s potential running mate. Political coincidence is a beautiful thing especially when it’s spelled NIMBY.
Joy Overbeck is a Colorado journalist and author who writes at Townhall.com, The Washington Times, The Daily Caller, American Thinker, Breakpoint.org, and elsewhere. More columns: https://www.facebook.com/JoyOverbeckColumnist Follow her on Twitter @JoyOverbeck1