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For The Election… Suburbanites, Listen Up!

September 14, 2020 Frontpage No Comments

By DEACON MIKE MANNO, JD

There is an issue in this campaign that is bubbling just beneath the surface, yet to catch the attention of the general public. It deals with a nearly obscure adjunct to the 1968 Fair Housing Act: Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH).
The law requires that all federal departments and agencies administer their programs so as to further the purposes of the Fair Housing Act which, in part, is to eliminate housing discrimination and segregated communities.
In 2015 the Obama administration’s Housing and Urban Development adopted the AFFH rule which required cities and towns receiving federal housing funds to conduct studies to determine if there were any patterns or practices in their locations that were inconsistent with the purposes of the law, to analyze the relative factors that may be noncompliant with the law, then to develop plans to rectify the situation.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that, according to the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, the AFFH rule worked by creating “a community-centered process to analyze patterns and causes of segregation as well as neighborhood disparities,” and by having jurisdictions looking for federal funding “set actionable goals to promote greater integration and equity.”
But the objections to the AFFH were not with the idea of fairness in housing, but the remedies. Under the Obama rule the federal government had to correct what the administration would deem objectionable patterns of discrimination or quasi-discrimination.
“Before we could see the results of the 2015 rule, it was suspended, and now it has been dismantled,” Angela McIver, of the Fair Housing Rights Center in Southeastern Pennsylvania told the Inquirer.
“Now, the same jurisdictions that receive federal funds for housing only have to certify that they will do something in relation to fair housing.”
In announcing the repeal of the rule, Housing Secretary Dr. Ben Carson, said the Obama rule “was an overreach of unelected Washington bureaucrats into local communities.”
What was so objectionable? Stanley Kurtz of National Review, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, answered, “It would allow bureaucrats in Washington, in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to control zoning laws, to control the placement of transportation and business districts, even to some degree the drawing of school districts — in other words, almost every important local governmental responsibility could, under AFFH, fall into the de facto control of the feds.”
Kurtz, in an interview on FOX’s Life, Liberty & Levin, told host Mark Levin that the real problem stems from the Democratic notions that view the suburbs as “fundamentally unjust.” People move from more urban locations to the suburbs and take with them the tax base that the larger central cities need to survive.
“That is viewed by Obama and many other Democrats as a way of selfishly keeping your money from less well-off people in the cities,” Kurtz told Levin.
“So the Obama administration, riding on some language in the original Fair Housing Act that did not have all the meanings he gave to it, created a really massive rule called [AFFH].”
Now, he notes, former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, has suggested that if elected he would not only re-implement the AFFH, but Biden’s would go further than Obama’s original rule. According to Kurtz:
“Biden has embraced [Sen.] Cory Booker’s (D., N.J.) strategy for ending single-family zoning in the suburbs and creating what you might call ‘little downtowns’ in the suburbs. Combine the Obama-Biden administration’s radical AFFH regulation with Booker’s new strategy, and I don’t see how the suburbs can retain their ability to govern themselves.
“It will mean the end of local control, the end of a style of living that many people prefer to the city, and therefore the end of meaningful choice in how Americans can live.”
Calling AFFH an “affirmative action for community planning,” Kurtz cites three elements that would intermingle suburbs with the larger cities they surround.
First, it would create a “quota system” to force “economic integration” on the suburbs; second, it would slow down or close suburban growth by restricting the use of automobiles and limiting highway growth, thus forcing people back into the cities; and, finally, it would force suburbs to redistribute tax moneys to poor cities in their metropolitan region.
“The impact of this radically progressive policy would put the suburban vote at risk for Democrats,” Kurtz said. “The danger AFFH poses to Democrats explains why the press barely mentions it. This lack of curiosity, in turn, explains why the revolutionary nature of the rule has not been properly understood. Ultimately, the regulation amounts to back-door annexation, a way of turning America’s suburbs into tributaries of nearby cities,” he added.
Star Parker, columnist for The Daily Signal and president of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, called the Obama rule a “war on the lifestyle of the single-family home.”
She wrote, “The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule pretends to take care of all of this [urban sprawl, environmental problems] by invading the suburban space; limiting single-family home zoning; mandating dense, low-income housing; and financing it all with tax revenue from resident single-family home dwellers. It was the right move by the Trump administration to eliminate this inappropriate assault on the most basic American freedom to choose where and how one wants to live.”

The Catechism And Subsidiarity

Now, place this all in the context of the general election, especially in light of the activities of Black Lives Matter and other left-wing pressure groups. Should the Democrats win the Senate, they have promised to end the filibuster, which means that any bill can pass the upper house with a simple majority vote. With no filibuster to deal with in the House it, too, can easily pass the Biden proposal, which he will surely sign into law.
There will be no check the Republicans can use to stop this federal power grab. No longer will local governing bodies and their citizens control their own zoning or community planning.
All will ultimately be in the hands of the Biden administration, which will make the final decisions so to achieve their vision of equality and environmental policies.
Ironically, the proposal also contradicts one of the essential Catholic social doctrines, the principle of subsidiarity — the belief that issues should be dealt with as close to the people affected as possible.
“A community of higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1883). Or we might call it federalism.
This scheme should come up in the campaign, and at the debates, if we have debates. Hopefully there is an enterprising reporter somewhere with the determination to raise the issue. Then we’ll see how the rest of the press and the candidates handle it.

  • + + (You can reach Mike at: DeaconMike@q.com and listen to him every Thursday at 10 a.m. CDT on Faith On Trial on IowaCatholicRadio.com.)
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