AFFH-world comes to Iowa

In discussing the radical implications of President Obama’s “Affirmative Furthering Fair Housing” rule (AFFH), I typically point to what happened in Westchester County, New York as a sneak preview. But Stanley Kurtz directs our attention to an even more chilling example — Dubuque, Iowa.

In Westchester County, Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development forced the local government to build low-income housing in an upscale community and to encourage people outside the County to move into these units. This struck me as radical, considering that moving people from jurisdiction to jurisdiction is a hallmark of totalitarian governance.

In Dubuque, however, the feds have taken this one step further. It is forcing the city to build low-income housing for folks in Chicago, Illinois.

Kurtz cites a report by Deborah Thornton, a policy analyst for Iowa’s Public Interest Institute:

The report tells the story of how Dubuque was pressured to cede large swathes of its governing authority to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has forced the city to direct its limited low-income “Section 8” housing resources, not to its own needy citizens, but to voucher-holders from Chicago.

Dubuque has plenty of needy citizens. As Kurtz points out, unlike Westchester County, it is not an upper-middle-class suburb, but rather a small and economically struggling city:

At $44,600, median income in Dubuque is well below the state median of $51,843. Like other nearby Mississippi river towns with aging populations, Dubuque is hard-pressed to provide good jobs and decent housing for the low-income people already there: poor families with children, retired elderly, and disabled adults.

The city’s priority is to revive its economy by keeping its young people from moving away, and by attracting new residents who are willing and able to start businesses. Like any city, Dubuque’s first obligation is to see to the needs of the citizens who already live there, vote, and pay taxes. Or so it was in pre-AFFH America.

In AFFH-America, the federal government forces Dubuque to provide low-income housing for Chicago residents. Unlike, say, an elderly Dubuque resident, the folks from Chicago have never paid a dime of taxes in Dubuque. Their only claim on Dubuque’s resources is their low-income status and, of course, their race. In other words, they have no legitimate claim.

How, then, did they obtain the right to move into Dubuque housing units ahead of Dubuque residents? Kurtz explains:

Our story begins about eight years ago. Just as Dubuque was reeling from the effects of the 2008 recession and dealing with an uptick in its own low-income housing needs, the city was hit with a wave of “Section 8” low-income housing voucher applicants from Chicago. A few years earlier, Chicago had systematically demolished its most drug- and crime-ridden high-rise public housing facilities, using grants from HUD. Yet through its own mismanagement, Chicago had failed to properly replace its now depleted low-income housing stock, leaving many Chicago residents looking to use their Section 8 vouchers elsewhere.

With many more Section 8 applicants than it could house, Dubuque instituted a low-income housing point system granting preference to Dubuque residents, county residents, state residents, and out-of-state residents, in that order. [Note: What could be more reasonable?] Although HUD’s rules ostensibly allow localities to craft their own housing priorities, Dubuque’s point system was deemed unacceptable by HUD. The feds undertook a review of Dubuque’s housing policy that effectively treated the city as part of greater Chicago.

That Dubuque is 200 miles from Chicago and in a different state was no obstacle to the Washington bureaucrats at HUD. To them, race trumps geography (and everything else):

[B]y effectively treating Dubuque and Chicago as part of the same “region,” HUD was able to declare Dubuque’s low-income housing point system discriminatory. Since the vast majority of Section 8 applicants from Chicago were African-Americans, Dubuque’s preferences for citizens of its own city, county, and state were deemed racist. HUD insisted that Dubuque would have to admit housing applicants in conformity with the demographics of the larger (HUD-defined) region.

How did HUD make its disregard of geography, common sense, and the right of local self-government stick?

Having previously accepted HUD funding through the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program, as well as HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program, Dubuque was formally obligated to “affirmatively further fair housing” in whatever way HUD defined that obligation. Refusal to submit to HUD’s dictates would have led to the withdrawal of federal funding, a lawsuit for supposed discrimination, or both.

The cowed elected officials of Dubuque accordingly signed a “voluntary” (in truth, forced) consent agreement that effectively ceded control of the city’s housing policy to HUD for at least five years.

This is why Kurtz is calling for a nationwide campaign to persuade local officials not to accept HUD money. It’s a deal with devil for any locality that wishes to preserve its right of self-governance. As Kurtz points out:

The feds have essentially commandeered Dubuque to solve Chicago’s public housing shortage. HUD’s diktat also imposes a huge administrative burden on Dubuque, with monthly, quarterly, annual, and five-year plans to be filed and followed up on. (Yes, a “five-year plan.”) Having “voluntarily” consented to a federal takeover, Dubuque is now obligated to follow HUD’s every command for at least five years.

And this is what’s in store for the rest of the country under HUD’s AFFH rule. How unfortunate that Speaker Ryan caved on the Gosar Amendment that would have defunded AFFH.

To my knowledge, no GOP presidential candidate has injected AFFH into the race, despite its radical application in Iowa, where the first rest of candidate strength will occur very soon.

In fairness, Marco Rubio sponsored an equivalent of the Gosar Amendment in the Senate, and I’m told that Ted Cruz is aware of, and concerned about, this issue. It’s time, though, to push the matter into the presidential race. The upcoming GOP debate wouldn’t be a bad time for candidates to lay down a marker.