We have often written about AFFH, which stands for “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing.” AFFH gives the federal government a way to re-engineer nearly every American neighborhood. It enables the feds to impose a preferred racial and ethnic composition; densify housing, transportation, and business development in suburb and city alike; and weaken or cast aside the authority of local governments over core responsibilities from zoning to transportation to education.
Another way of looking at AFFH, says our friend Stanley Kurtz, is as a way of allowing big cities to effectively annex their surrounding suburbs. Yet another way is to view it as an exercise in socialism.
President Obama waited until his administration had nearly ended to promulgate his AFFH rule. But, as Stanley says, he executed a test-run of their new AFFH policy on Westchester County, New York. We wrote about this development here.
Obama’s radical move caused Republicans to gain control of Westchester’s government, and the new County Executive Rob Astorino courageously fought back against Obama administration overreach. Now, Astorino claims that “Team Trump just called a halt to the Obama-era war on American suburbs.”
Not really. Yes, the Trump HUD, under Secretary Ben Carson, has proposed a revision of Obama’s AFFH that peels back some of the rule’s most egregious overreach. However, it has leaves the core of Obama’s AFFH remains intact. That core is the federal government’s power to control local zoning decisions.
As long as the feds have this power, they can tell people where to live and take control of key housing, transportation, and business development decisions. They can siphon off suburban tax revenue and control suburban, as well as urban, planning.
The Trump-Carson “AFFH lite” accepts the principle that it is the business of the feds to tell local governments how to zone and plan. This leaves the next Democratic administration free to push federal control to the max.
Indeed, as Stanley says, “with Carson’s AFFH lite, Republicans will have abandoned not only the principle of local control and the correct interpretation of the original Fair Housing Act, they will have lost a political issue that could turn suburban swing voters their way.”
Why has the Trump administration gone soft on AFFH? According to Stanley:
Although the conservative base abhors AFFH, developer interests exercise significant sway over HUD. If HUD breaks the ability of local governments to control their own housing and planning decisions, developers will get busy urbanizing the suburbs.
The Trump administration should put the public interest ahead of the interests of developers. It should root out the AFFH rule entirely, rather than tweak it.
Unfortunately, this outcome — the anti-socialist one — doesn’t seem to be in the cards.