Zoning emerges as a political issue for conservatives

Stanley Kurtz calls attention to two developments he says indicate that zoning may be on the cusp of emerging as a high-profile political issue. The first is from Virginia. There, in the midst of the high-stakes McAuliffe vs. Youngkin race for governor, the conservative group Frontiers of Freedom Foundation is running an ad that highlights Terry McAuliffe’s support for Joe Biden’s plans to undercut single-family zoning.

The ad, which I found powerful, reminds voters that attacks on local control of zoning can come from states as well as the feds. In fact, this has happened in California which recently abolished single-family zoning. The anti-McAuliffe ad pointedly reminds Virginia voters of this news from California.

The second development is from California, where there is a move afoot to put a measure on the 2022 California ballot that would effectively nullify the abolition of single-family zoning. Although signature collection has not yet begun, Stanley points out that it’s relatively easy to secure a statewide referendum in California, especially on a high-profile issue like this.

This seems like a great opportunity to pull the issues surrounding affirmatively furthering fair housing out of the shadows, where the left has tried to contain them. As Stanley says:

California ballot measures draw national attention. A referendum on local control over zoning in the nation’s largest state would dramatically raise the profile of this issue.

In conjunction with the Biden administration’s revival of Obama’s radical Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation, and additional congressional efforts to kill off single-family zoning (possibly in the big infrastructure bill, if we ever find out what’s in it), a California referendum could rocket this issue to national prominence. And if McAuliffe goes down after an ad campaign focused on the zoning issue, it will serve as a roadmap for Republicans in other states. . . .

Democrats have always worried that their plans to do away with single-family zoning will be politically unpopular, even with many Democrats. They haven’t yet had to face the political consequences of their own policies, however. With local control over zoning now injected into the Virginia governor’s race, and a California referendum very likely on the way, that may be about to change.

Few issues matter more to voters than the character of their neighborhoods and the character of their schools. The second issue — schools — has become a high-profile one. Maybe now the first one — neighborhoods — will come into prominence.

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