An opportunity to stop AFFH [UPDATED]

Senator Mike Lee has proposed an amendment that would defund President Obama’s overreaching and coercive Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation. The amendment is expected to reach the Senate floor this week.

The Lee Amendment is straightforward. It simply says that community development block grants, which have been around for more than 40 years, can be spent by local communities as they see fit to put affordable housing where they think it makes sense. As Rick Manning of Americans for Limited Government reminds us, “that’s the way these block grants have always been allocated, but suddenly, the Obama Administration found some new power for HUD to condition the community development block grants based on fulfilling the department’s utopian vision of racial and income equality.”

I encourage readers to contact their Senators and urge them to support Sen. Lee’s amendment.

Stanley Kurtz explains why it is so important to stop AFFH in its tracks:

AFFH puts unaccountable federal bureaucrats in charge of your local government. It’s not too strong to say that over the long term, AFFH spells the effective end of local government in America and a shift to a federally controlled “regionalist” system instead.

For a sense of what that means, consider the way in which the Obama administration took control of housing in Dubuque. . . .Or consider the way in which the Obama administration’s attempt to take control of housing in Westchester County, New York is now threatening free speech everywhere. Senator Lee himself has just taken on AFFH in a piece entitled, “We Don’t Need a National Zoning Board.”

Kurtz goes on to discuss the political implications of this vote:

AFFH is a political nightmare for the Democrats. That’s why they put so much effort into keeping AFFH under the radar.

Yet the issue is already catching far more public attention than it ever has before. It’s been increasingly discussed on talk radio, and conservative writers are beginning to take notice as well.

More important, AFFH itself is going to begin hitting localities intensely in the coming years. Public uproar is destined to grow. Senators need to ask themselves if they want to be on record in favor of AFFH once the rule itself takes full effect and stirs up public outrage. . . .

Defunding AFFH would go a long way toward uniting a divided Republican party, and that could have a big effect in this election year. Moderate Democrats who go on record in favor of AFFH are going to be in some serious trouble as well once this regulation begins to function in the coming months and years. Senators of all parties should take note. This vote is destined to be remembered.

(Emphasis added)

UPDATE: The left is lobbying hard against the Lee Amendment. AFFH supporters are trying to persuade Senators that defunding Obama’s new rule, which federalizes the core functions of local government and turns localities into helpless satellites of nearby megacities, is nothing but a bit of new guidance showing them how to fulfill their existing obligations under the Fair Housing Act of 1968. They are even claiming that the Lee Amendment would gut the 1968 Act.

The latter claim is preposterous. The Act has been in place for almost 50 years without AFFH. Funny, but no one noticed that the absence of AFFH gutted the legislation.

That’s because, as Stanley Kurtz explains, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 says nothing about withholding HUD grants from localities unless they nullify classic suburban zoning patterns to build high-density low-income housing. FHA is strictly about preventing overt discrimination in housing transactions.

For this reason, the claim that the AFFH regulation is merely innocuous guidance also fails. AFFH is an attempt by Team Obama to read new meanings into the 1968 Act — meanings that would enable federal bureaucrats to impose racial and ethnic quotas and forced economic integration on every locality that accepts federal housing money.

Kurtz points out that even AFFH supporter Charles M. Lamb, a fair housing specialist with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and author of a 2005 book on federal housing policy, has acknowledged that “nothing in the Fair Housing Act expressly requires the federal government to encourage suburban racial integration through the use of subsidized housing.” Nor, Lamb added, “does the Fair Housing Act forbid economic discrimination of any kind or require government to promote suburban economic integration in any way.”

These approaches are the radical agenda of today’s left, not of the Congress that passed the Fair Housing Act. Certain sponsors may have hoped to achieve such goals via an end to the discriminatory exclusion of minorities from communities they can afford to live in. However, Congress did not mandate the accomplishment of these goals.

By thwarting Team Obama’s power grab, Congress would in no way undermine, much less gut, the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Senators should not be duped into thinking otherwise.