The Obama administration’s Housing & Urban Development department is embarking on a social engineering experiment that wipes out one of the fundamental functions of local government – making neighborhood zoning decisions.
Through its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation, the president is seeking to diminish both liberty and local autonomy – hoping to supplant the foundational American ideal of equality of opportunity with the far left’s vision of imposed egalitarian outcomes.
As former local elected officials, one as mayor of Cincinnati and the other as a town councilman in a small Maryland town, we are appalled at this brazen attempt to override the people’s ability to determine where their local schools, strip malls, apartments and other types of homes are located.
No more heated battles occur amongst neighbors than over the future development plans for a community, and it the very plans that result from these community character defining decisions that will be steamrolled by HUD bureaucrats looking at census tract maps in a quest for more complete racial integration.
Mr. Obama’s AFFH rule seeks to radically reinvent local zoning laws in the United States – reengineering America neighborhoods based on racial and ethnic quotas. Under the rule’s assessment tool, local governments are required to “identify neighborhoods or areas in the jurisdiction and region where racial/ ethnic groups are segregated.”
Specifically, Mr. Obama’s AFFH rule seeks to radically reinvent local zoning laws in the United States – reengineering America neighborhoods based on racial and ethnic quotas. Under the rule’s assessment tool, local governments are required to “identify neighborhoods or areas in the jurisdiction and region where racial/ ethnic groups are segregated.” Next the rule compels them to “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.”
Refusal to comply with these invasive, unfunded mandates would empower the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to withhold millions of dollars in community development block grants from the area – effectively turning this $3.5 billion annual program into a political redistricting tool.
If this sounds Constitutionally-suspect, it should. In fact Mr. Obama’s HUD rule runs explicitly counter to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision (Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.) which expressly prohibited the imposition of housing mandates “based solely on a showing of statistical disparity.”
“Courts should avoid interpreting disparate-impact liability to be so expansive as to inject racial considerations into every housing decision,” a majority of Justices concluded. Indeed it was decided such targets and quotas must be “properly limited in key respects to avoid serious constitutional questions.”
The irony is that the purported value of helping the disadvantaged by exposing them to better services in other communities was shown to be a dismal failure in a 2011 HUD study that is characterized as, “the most ambitious randomized social experiment ever conducted by HUD.”
At the conclusion of the fifteen year study, more of those who HUD hoped to helped were on food stamps than before, their kids did the same in school, and the numbers on welfare did not change. To quote the study, there were “no better educational, employment or income outcomes.”
Undeterred by the failure of the experiment, the Obama administration has pushed the AFFH regulation into law.
The good news is that this spring the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment by Representative Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill zeroing out funding for the implementation of this rule.
In the week ahead, Congress will fund the federal government for the next ten months, and a diverse coalition of House members including Gosar and Rep. Peter King, R-NY, are urging a ten month defunding pause to Obama’s failed social experiment.
We encourage Congress to include Gosar’s defund amendment into any final funding bill, and protect the most fundamental local government function – control over where and what is built in their community.
Ken Blackwell formerly served as Mayor of Cincinnati and as UnderSecretary of HUD. Rick Manning is a former town councilman from Chesapeake Beach, MD and is currently President of Americans for Limited Government