An African-American millionaire can buy a home in any expensive suburb. Color is no longer a barrier. Despite this progress, President Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development is accusing expensive towns of racism, simply because most minorities can’t afford to live there.
Westchester County, N.Y., has struggled under a federal monitor since 2009 to compel the county to comply with HUD’s demands for multi-unit affordable housing in expensive areas. Hillary Clinton claims to be a warrior against inequality. But her adopted hometown of Chappaqua, an upscale Westchester village that one resident describes as “a little piece of heaven,” is battling HUD’s demands.
The legal war in Hillary’s backyard is a preview. The Obama administration is pulling out all the stops to launch a legal and regulatory assault on suburbs nationwide. HUD’s soon-to-be-released regulation, in the works since 2013, will compel affluent suburbs to build more high-density, low-income housing, plus of course sewers, water lines, bus routes and other changes needed to support it. All in the name of housing “fairness.”
Mr. Obama’s social engineers will eliminate local zoning, such as one-acre minimum lots, to achieve what the HUD rule calls “inclusive communities.” Property values be damned.
If you’ve worked hard to afford a home in an affluent neighborhood of single-family houses, you have a lot to lose under this HUD plan.
The HUD rule twists the original and laudable intent of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which is to bar discrimination in renting, selling or financing housing. The new rule states that towns must “affirmatively further” diversity. If low-income minorities want to move to a town but can’t afford it, the town must “provide adequate support to make their choices viable.”
Whether the HUD plan goes forward will depend largely on how the Supreme Court rules in Texas Department of Housing v. The Inclusive Communities Project, a lawsuit brought to demand that public housing be located in wealthy Dallas suburbs. Before the end of June, the justices will decide whether Texas is guilty of racism simply for locating public housing in lower-income areas of Dallas, close to existing public transportation, rather than in costly areas. Activists claim that even without intent to discriminate the state is depriving poor minorities of the advantages of living in affluent neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are trying to halt HUD’s new plan by depriving it of funding. To do that, the House passed the Gosar Amendment, sponsored by Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, last Thursday but its success in the Senate is uncertain. Democratic members of Congress whose constituents live in some of the most expensive suburbs in the nation are nevertheless toeing the party line and supporting HUD.
HUD’s plan is frightening. Phase one will collect data on poverty, school testing scores, and public transit sites from every census division to spot towns that have too few poor residents. If your town is guilty, HUD regulators will charge racism and demand more public housing. Race is being cynically exploited here as a pretext to accomplish something different — economic integration.
The HUD plan is a power grab. Nothing in the U.S. Constitution empowers the federal government to do this. Zoning is a local government power.
HUD makes the silly argument that transplanting low-income minorities into suburbs will solve the causes of their poverty and “improve an individual or family’s life trajectory.” That ignores the factors stacked against poor kids. A family headed by a single mother is nearly five times as likely to live in poverty as a family headed by two parents, no matter where they live. Building wedding parlors on inner-city street corners and promoting two-parent families would do more to break the cycle of poverty than redesigning suburban America.
If the justices and Congress fail to stop HUD’s scheme, expect Hillary “Rodham Hood” Clinton to champion it (with a carve-out for Chappaqua, of course). HUD Secretary Julian Castro is even being mentioned as Clinton’s running mate. Short of taxing the rich to death, these inequality warriors would like nothing better than to prevent the rich from enjoying the suburbs, far from urban woes.
• Betsy McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.