I wrote here about the Obama administration’s proposed rule on “affirmatively furthering fair housing” (AFFH), an attempt to dictate how we shall live. I argued that, in essence, President Obama seeks to use the power of the national government to create communities of a certain kind, each having what the federal government deems an appropriate mix of economic, racial, and ethnic diversity.
To get a good idea of what this looks like in practice, we need only examine the unfortunate experience of Westchester County with AFFH and the Obama administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Terry Eastland provides a harrowing summary.
Westchester County made the mistake of entering into a settlement with HUD, regarding it as a reasonable bureaucracy based on its experience with the Bush administration. Unfortunately, the settlement was with Obama’s HUD.
Under the settlement, the County agreed to build 750 “affordable housing units,” 650 of which would be in municipalities with less than 3 percent American-American population and less than 7 percent Hispanic population. HUD insisted on this deal even though Westchester County had not been accused of engaging in housing discrimination.
As further penance for its non-wrongdoing, Westchester County agreed to advertise its affordable housing units to people living outside the County. The non-residents were to be lured into the County to try to ensure that the new housing units would be filled by the desired number of members of the HUD-preferred racial and ethic groups. To this end, Westchester County was required to spend money on behalf of people who don’t live there. This is “regionalism” in action.
It is also a form of “steering.” Racial discrimination in housing has traditionally occurred when realtors steered clients from one neighborhood to another according to where, based on race, the realtor (and forces behind the realtor) thought they should live. Now the government is steering people into certain neighborhoods based, once again, on race.
Westchester County has proceeded apace with the building and steering called for by the Obama administration. But the Obama administration isn’t satisfied. In line with its proposed AFFH rule, it now calls for 5,000 more affordable housing units to be built, most of them in predominantly white communities.
This would require re-zoning, which HUD expects Westchester County to impose. But the County has analyzed all 853 local zoning districts and found no evidence of exclusionary practices, and its analysis has been supported by independent review. Accordingly, Westchester County has refused to sue municipalities to force zoning changes. In response HUD has cut off $17 million in housing grants.
Clearly, the Obama administration’s interest is not in combatting discrimination in housing; its interest is imposing a preordained view of the proper racial and ethnic mix for neighborhoods. And I mean all neighborhoods. For as Rob Astorino, the executive of Westchester County, says, “the battle for zoning in Westchester County [will be] the battle everywhere” — a battle that is “about changing every block, every neighborhood to the viewpoint of federal bureaucrats at HUD.”
Astorino’s assessment may sound melodramatic, but it is supported by the Secretary of HUD himself. Shaun Donovan says, “there are no stones we won’t turn; there are no places we won’t go.”
Can power-hungry leftists like Donovan, Obama, and the “community organizers” whose bidding they are doing be thwarted? This will be the subject of my next post in this series.