Joe Biden’s “infrastructure” bill isn’t about improving America’s roads, bridges, and other elements of our infrastructure. It’s about transforming America as radically as can be done through spending legislation.
We shouldn’t be surprised, therefore, that the legislation includes an attack on single-family zoning. Stanley Kurtz has the details. He begins by providing the context:
With the introduction of his massive, $2.3 trillion “infrastructure” bill, President Biden’s campaign to end suburban single-family zoning has begun. If you think this issue was debated and resolved during the 2020 presidential campaign, you are mistaken.
It’s true that Biden’s campaign platform openly and unmistakably pledged to abolish single-family zoning. As soon as President Trump made an issue of that pledge, however, Biden went virtually silent on the issue and the Democrat-supporting press falsely denied that Biden had any designs on single-family zoning at all.
Now that he’s president, Biden’s infrastructure bill openly includes programs designed to “eliminate” single-family zoning (which Biden calls “exclusionary zoning”).
How will the legislation accomplish this?
According to the fact sheet released by the White House, “Biden is calling on Congress to enact an innovative new competitive grant program that awards flexible and attractive funding to jurisdictions that take concrete steps to eliminate [‘exclusionary zoning’].”
In other words, Biden wants to use a big pot of federal grant money as bait. If a county or municipality agrees to weaken or eliminate its single-family zoning, it gets the federal bucks.
How does Biden’s legislative gambit compare to the noxious “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” regulation that former president Obama imposed and Biden supports?
The wildly overreaching Obama-Biden era Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation — which Biden has pledged to revive — works in a similar fashion [to the “infrastructure” legislation].
The difference is that by adding another gigantic pot of federal money to the Community Development Block Grants that are the lure of AFFH, Biden makes it that much harder for suburbs to resist applying — and that much more punishing to jurisdictions that forgo a share of the federal taxes they’ve already paid so as to protect their right to self-rule.
The question is whether localities will give up their right to zone in exchange for the money dangled before them in the “infrastructure” bill. The answer depends on (1) the amount of the money dangled and (2) the relative prosperity of the locality. Stanley explains:
Prosperous suburbs may forgo the grants in an effort to secure their independence. The success of Biden’s initiative depends in part on exactly how much money gets allocated to grants tied to zoning reform. The details of that ask haven’t yet been released, but the $213 billion allocated to Biden’s total affordable housing initiative leave room for an awfully big pot for the anti-zoning portion.
Stanley worries that even prosperous suburbs may be induced to forfeit their right to zone:
If I were administering Biden’s various federal housing programs, I would sucker well-off suburbs into accepting grants on lenient terms. The trick is that once a jurisdiction accepts a HUD grant, it has to sign a statement promising to “affirmatively further fair housing.” Now that Biden is going to revive the old Obama-Biden AFFH rule, that pledge can be used by activist non-profits or the administration itself to sue localities for failing to meet the outrageously expanded definition of that term set forth in Obama’s AFFH.
It was suits like this that dragged Westchester County, New York through years of federal control and torment. Just the threat of such suits intimidated Democratic officials in Dubuque, Iowa into surrendering their city’s self-rule to the Obama administration.
In any event, Biden has fired the opening shot in his campaign to abolish suburban single-family zoning.
What is to be done? Stanley advises Republicans to “expose Biden’s ‘infrastructure’ bill as the anti-suburban zoning bill it in fact is.” In this way, the GOP can “change the ‘infrastructure’ narrative from a Christmas tree studded with goodies to a hammer to smash your way of life.”
Then, as Biden’s war on the suburbs broadens through regulations, Republicans should “make an issue of Biden’s attack on single-family zoning” in order to “split the Democrats down the middle.”
The media will keep trying to cover for Biden. But once the administration begins enforcing AFFH, the reality of his policies will emerge. College-educated suburban Democrats won’t like that.
Stanley points to pushback against anti-zoning efforts from Democrat constituencies in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood and even from minority group residents in South Los Angeles. He concludes that “if Republicans find the courage to stand up to the usual nonsense and oppose this big-government attempt to kill off the federalist system itself, they will find not only the vast majority of Republicans, but a great many independents and Democrats in their corner.”