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President Donald Trump said Tuesday evening he will be reexamining an Obama-era housing rule critics have long said removed local control over zoning and imposed arbitrary federal racial quotas.
“At the request of many great Americans who live in the Suburbs, and others, I am studying the AFFH housing regulation that is having a devastating impact on these once thriving Suburban areas,” the president wrote on Twitter.
“Corrupt Joe Biden wants to make them MUCH WORSE. Not fair to homeowners, I may END!” Trump added.
In June 2016, just months before the November election, the Obama administration — perhaps confident that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would win — imposed a new rule loosely based on the 1968 Fair Housing Act.
The rule, called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH), required “any locality that receives block grant funding from the agency to rezone neighborhoods based on income and racial prerequisites,” BizPac Review reported.
The mandate essentially allowed the federal government to dictate state and local zoning laws while forcing subsidized housing into middle- and upper-middle-class suburbs.
In addition, the rule could be used to punish localities by withholding federal housing assistance if they fail to achieve racial quotas.
“We recognize that a growing body of research supports the benefits of socioeconomic and racial diversity in schools and communities, and that such diversity can help establish access points for opportunity and mobility,” the then-heads of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Education said in a letter informing state and local officials.
“We also recognize that children raised in concentrated poverty or in communities segregated by socioeconomic status or race or ethnicity have significantly lower social and economic mobility than those growing up in integrated communities,” the letter continued.
“Rising economic segregation means that an increasing number of low-income households are located in distressed neighborhoods where they face challenges such as failing schools, high rates of crime, and inadequate access to services and jobs, making it harder for individuals and families to escape poverty.”
At the time, critics panned the rule as a naked attempt by the Obama administration to reengineer the suburbs for political advantage.
“This document proves what I’ve been saying for six years: The federal government is planning to take control of the American suburb and forever change it in the false name of equality,” Westchester County, N.Y., Executive Rob Astorino told The Daily Caller at the time.
“If HUD gets its way, small-town America will literally disappear,” he added. “It will be forcibly urbanized by Washington social engineers.”
“AFFH will dramatically undercut the independence of local governments, will mean significant population transfers across metropolitan areas, and will force densified development on suburbs and cities alike,” National Review’s Stanley Kurtz wrote in June 2015, a year before the final rule’s release.
A year later, as the final rule was being issued, Kurtz wrote in a separate piece:
…[T]he attempt to force integration by class, to densify development in American suburbs and cities, and to undo America’s system of local government and replace it with a “regional” alternative that turns suburbs into helpless satellites of large cities. Once HUD gets its hooks into a municipality, no policy area is safe. Zoning, transportation, education, all of it risks slipping into the control of the federal government and the new, unelected regional bodies the feds will empower. Over time, AFFH could spell the end of the local democracy that Alexis de Tocqueville rightly saw as the foundation of America’s liberty and distinctiveness.
It’s unclear why the president decided to tweet on Tuesday about changing the AFFH rule — unless the administration is set to issue a new one. In January, the White House announced it was planning the move to undo significant portions of the rule.
HUD announced then that the previous administration’s regulations were “overly burdensome to both HUD and grantees and are ineffective in helping program participants meet their reporting obligations for multiple reasons.”
Notably, the Trump administration had delayed implementation of the rule and had eliminated a computer program that localities were to use in reporting, Yahoo! News reports.
Also, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, when he was considering seeking the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, said he wanted to eliminate the rule altogether.
In a July 2015 op-ed for the Washington Times, Carson compared the Obama-era rule to forced busing in the 1970s, which failed to achieve the desired social-engineering effect of integrating schools.
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