I wrote here and here about the Obama administration’s proposed rule on “affirmatively furthering fair housing” (AFFH), an attempt to dictate how we shall live. 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.
The proposed AFFH rule, issued last July, was expected to be finalized by the end of last year. But the year ended with no further action.
2014 was supposed to be the year Obama’s “year of action” — the phone, the pen, and all that. Yet, as Stanley Kurtz points out, Obama has been mum when it comes to AFFH.
The reason is obvious. We’re not talking about raising the minimum wage here. We’re talking about redistributing money from the suburbs (where all those “swing voters” reside) to the cities and inner-ring suburbs, and imposing racial and income balance in every neighborhood. In an election year, that’s political poison.
Now, Kurtz reports, Team Obama has made its political calculation official. According to the Obama administration’s just-released planned regulatory agenda, the finalized version of AFFH is now scheduled for December 2014, right after the midterms.
Kurtz proposes a way to break the administration’s silence on the AFFH before than. Obama has nominated Julian Castro, widely touted as a possible 2016 Democratic vice-presidential candidate, to replace Shaun Donovan as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Donovan helped formulate the administration’s policies for how we should live, and HUD will administer the AFFH regulations once they go into effect.
Accordingly, Castro should be asked about this matter during his confirmation hearings. Kurtz suggests the following line of questions:
On AFFH, how far will Castro go to force densification? What penalties will he levy? What measuring sticks will he use? What steps will he take to pressure suburban municipalities to participate in regional governing bodies? How does he square AFFH with America’s long tradition of local governance?
On regionalism and densification more generally, does Castro see the recent planning efforts in San Francisco and Minneapolis—with crucial federal participation in both cases—as models for the country? Does he agree with former Obama transportation secretary Ray LaHood that the administration’s goal should be to “coerce people out of their cars?”
The Obama administration has been avoiding questions like this for six years, and Castro would surely try to duck them during confirmation hearings. Moreover, it’s far from clear that the Republican Senators who, if we’re lucky, will ask these questions have the wit to follow up in the face of the evasions with which Castro would likely respond.
Nonetheless, it’s time to start asking the questions in public. The left-liberal vision of how we should live is unlikely to be an issue in 2014. But it’s not too early to prepare the battlefield for 2016. Nor is it too early to start building the record on Julian Castro who, presumably, would like to be an active participant in the 2016 battle.