Imagine if vulnerable Republican incumbents, instead of curling up into a fetal position in the face of Democrat attacks, had an 80-20 issue relevant to the everyday lives of their constituents to shove down the throats of their opponents? Well, Senator Mike Lee has just granted them that opportunity with his amendment to the 2017 Transportation-HUD (Housing and Urban Development) appropriations bill, which would defund Obama’s war on the suburbs, otherwise known as the Affirmative Further Fair Housing (AFFH) rule placed into the federal register last July. Will GOP members, particularly Senators Ron Johnson, Kelly Ayotte, and Pat Toomey, take yes for an answer?
The AFFH represents the worst form of social transformation without representation and is the capstone of Obama’s effort to fundamentally transform America. It is an ad hoc federal gerrymander to force local governments to impose low-income housing in areas HUD targets for social engineering while funneling funds to left-wing community organizing groups to transfer people from the inner city into suburban neighborhoods. It represents one of the worst violations of federalism, property rights and the true ideals of equal opportunity expressed in the Declaration of Independence.
Every American has the right and opportunity to purchase property, housing or rentals in any part of the country. However, the federal government has no constitutional power to mandate the breakdown of natural settlement and development for different neighborhoods and counties in order to enrich their favored NGOs. Under the AFFH, HUD unilaterally decides that not enough individuals from a given race or ethnicity live in a particular jurisdiction. Then, in order to leverage the local government 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,” HUD threatens to withhold community development block grants.
Further, HUD uses their army of lawyers and groups like the NAACP and ACLU to threaten lawsuits against counties that fail to comply with this scheme. While the 5-4 activist court decision from last year (Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.) to codify “disparate impact” into housing laws doesn’t fully support HUD’s new rule, it is close enough to scare off cash-strapped counties from engaging in protracted legal battles to protect their interests.
My home county, Baltimore County, was one of the first jurisdictions targeted for this cloddish and unconstitutional social experiment. As CNS News reported in March, Baltimore County was forced by HUD to settle under threat of lawsuit for a $30 million program creating 1,000 new low-income units with very specific criterion. Here are some more details from CNS’s Susan Jones:
In addition, the county must provide 2,000 Housing Choice Vouchers to help families gain access to “higher opportunity neighborhoods.”
The county must “proactively market the units to potential tenants who are least likely to apply, including African Americans families and families with a member who has a disability.”
The county must, within 180 days, introduce (and keep trying to pass) legislation that prohibits housing discrimination based on a person’s lawful source of income. This means a landlord can’t refuse someone housing if he or she plans to pay the rent with Social Security or other public assistance instead of a paycheck (job!).
How can Republicans let something this odious stand for even one day? Aside from being extremely unfair and unconstitutional, the government is forcing localities to mimic the very fiscally unsustainable affordable housing goals that led to the financial meltdown and the Great Recession in 2008.
The Democrats are so scared of having to vote on this that they got Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI) to introduce a smokescreen amendment that appears to block the AFFH. Except this amendment doesn’t defund the rule as it is practically applied; it only prohibits funds for HUD to direct local governments to make “specific changes to existing zoning laws”. However, HUD is not officially asking local governments to change their zoning laws, they are using the AFFH rule to coerce local Public Housing Authorities to implement their preferred plans irrespective of their local zoning laws on the books. It is similar to what the Obama administration did to enforce Common Core mandates by leveraging them against Race to the Top funding. Without defunding AFFH and specifically targeting its ability to use backdoor leverage, the amendment is worthless.
But Democrats want the cover to vote for the Collins amendment so that they can say they stand with their constituents and local communities while blocking the Lee amendment, which will actually stop this transformation in its tracks. Republicans should vote for the Lee amendment and not toss a loin cloth to Democrats with the Collins amendment.
If the GOP is not willing to fight on defending our neighborhoods from Obama’s social engineering, they should just go home and quit pretending.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.