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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

This could be the most ambitious and disturbing social-engineering project ever undertaken by the federal gov’t.

That’s how an IBD editorial recently described a proposal from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) (“Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” – who could object to that lofty goal?) that will force local communities around the country to loosen their zoning laws so that more public housing can be built in “racist” zip codes that are not considered to be “inclusive” enough. It’s a proposal that would force racial integration on America’s suburban neighborhoods that could be unprecedented in its scope and reach.
An op-ed in last Friday’s WSJ provides some disturbing details on how HUD’s assault on local zoning codes has already affected one community – Westchester County (north of New York City) – and illustrates what the rest of the country can expect as the federal government’s social-engineering efforts move forward to forcibly impose racial integration on America’s suburban neighborhoods. Westchester County executive Robert Astorino explains:
Do you think it is a good idea to give the Department of Housing and Urban Development unchecked power to put an apartment building in your neighborhood? HUD has proposed a new rule that could do just that.
In July, HUD published its long-awaited proposal on “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” in the Federal Register. It is a sweeping set of land-use regulations that has attracted little national attention. The agency wants the power to dismantle local zoning so communities have what it considers the right mix of economic, racial and ethnic diversity. A finding of discriminatory behavior, or allegations of discrimination, would no longer be necessary. HUD will supply “nationally uniform data” of what it thinks 1,200 communities should look like.
Local governments will have to “take meaningful actions to further the goals identified.” If they fail to comply, HUD can cut federal funding. Westchester County north of New York City has firsthand experience of what the rest of the nation can expect.
HUD has told Westchester that any limits on the size, type, height and density of buildings are “restrictive practices.” It demands that the county sue its localities over such common zoning regulations, which are not exclusionary by any stretch of the imagination. If HUD can define what constitutes exclusionary practices, then local zoning as it is known today disappears. Apartments, high rises or whatever else the federal government or a developer wants can be built on any block in America.
HUD’s power grab is based on the mistaken belief that zoning and discrimination are the same. They are not. Zoning restricts what can be built, not who lives there.
Here’s what Thomas Sowell wrote about HUD’s social-engineering:
Only ideologues could devote themselves to crusading against people’s efforts to live and associate with other people who share their values and habits…. Undaunted by a long history of disasters when third parties try to mix and match people, or prescribe what kind of housing is best, they act as if this time it has to work. It doesn’t matter how many government housing projects that began with lofty rhetoric and heady visions have ended with these expensive projects being demolished with explosives, in the wake of social catastrophes that made these places unlivable.
To those with the crusading mentality, failure only means that they should try, try again — at other people’s expense, including not only the taxpayers but also those who lives have been disrupted, or even made miserable and dangerous, by previous bright ideas of third parties who pay no price for being wrong.
As long-time CD reader Bob Wright commented by email about the WSJ article, “If people don’t think the current administration is moving towards totalitarianism, think again. Did I fall asleep and wake up in communist China?” Or maybe the Soviet Union?
Update: You can comment on the HUD proposal until September 17 at this website and you can read the 390 comments already submitted here (as of 6 p.m. on September 11). As Mr. Astorino wrote in his WSJ op-ed, “If elected officials and citizens do not want to cede control of their streets, neighborhoods and open space to Washington, now is the time to say so.”

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