Biden’s far-reaching equity plan will have negative consequences for America’s suburbs

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden released a plan to “strengthen racial equity” throughout the entire government. But it turns out this plan will also affect housing.

The housing portion of the plan specifically calls for taking the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and augmenting it with a new, race-based Affirmatively Further Fair Housing policy.

According to Howard Husock of the American Enterprise Institute, the policy would require that any jurisdiction that receives money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development piece together a plan to promote so-called racial “equity.”

Specifically, the jurisdictions would need to “promote equity in their communities, decrease segregation, and increase access to opportunity and community assets for people of color and other underserved communities,” he explained for Fox News.

“Such equity could mean anything from building low-income housing to redrawing school district lines for racial or socio-economic integration, all as assessed by the HUD,” Husock wrote in a column for Fox News.

The proposal is undergirded by the belief that “people of color and other underserved communities” are somehow being denied opportunities and thus must be given special attention.

The good news is that it’s optional, in that cities can just reject federal grant money to avoid having to abide by the new rule:

Of course, critics argue that cities shouldn’t be put in this position in the first place, especially since the grant money comes from taxpayers, not the government itself.

One part of the plan would reportedly call for poor households to essentially be relocated to rich neighborhoods.

“The underlying social science rationale, cited by HUD, is that of Harvard economists Raj Chetty and Lawrence Katz, who examined data in a 1990s HUD program called Moving to Opportunity — in which a small number of low-income households were relocated to higher-income areas,” Husock wrote.

As reportedly noted by HUD, “Children who move to low-poverty neighborhoods have increased academic achievement, greater long-term chances of success, and less intergenerational poverty.”

But according to Husock, this analysis of the study is flawed.

“Yet the actual Harvard study is far more nuanced, although it finds that ‘every extra year of childhood spent in a low-poverty environment appears to be beneficial,’ it also notes that ‘for older children (those between ages 13-18), we find that moving to a lower-poverty neighborhood has a statistically insignificant or slightly negative effect,'” he explained.

Moreover, he wrote, “HUD fails to acknowledge that sustained upward mobility is based on the constructive life decisions made at the family level — including marriage and employment. These are the building blocks of the economic gains that enable moves to better neighborhoods.”

By forcing poor families into rich neighborhoods, he contended, the government would be instituting “comparable life outcomes for those making distinct life choices.” And by doing this, he continued, it’d be negatively impacting whites and blacks equally.

“Don’t be surprised if those objecting include the suburban African-American middle class, which has worked hard and played by the rules. Their concern was captured in a recent New York Times article about ‘black flight’ from racially integrated Shaker Heights, Ohio,” he wrote.

The piece quoted a black library staffer who said, “There’s a group of African Americans that have achieved and have it together. And then there’s the group that’s still caught in not having achieved. … And I come from the mind-set: Separate yourselves at all costs from the ones who might still be struggling.”

This is relevant because the top rebuttal from leftists responding to conservative criticism of the Affirmatively Further Fair Housing policy is that said criticism is rooted in racism. But it’s clearly not that simple.

There’s also the constitutionality factor to consider.

“HUD’s lengthy proposal is based on the thinnest of reeds in the 1968 Fair Housing Law, which, following its main anti-discrimination language, goes on to direct other Federal agencies ‘to administer their programs … relating to housing and urban development … in a manner affirmatively to further’ the policies of the act. It is into that small lane that HUD drives its big, regulatory truck, with communities across the country in its path,” Husock wrote.

HUD reportedly defines equity as “access to high quality schools, equitable employment opportunities, reliable transportation services, parks and recreation facilities, community centers, community-based supportive services, law enforcement and emergency services, healthcare services, grocery stores, retail establishments, infrastructure and municipal services, libraries, and banking and financial institutions.”

Husock further wrote that jurisdictions forced to comply with the rule may have the grounds to sue.

“Local jurisdictions receiving HUD funds would seem to have grounds to sue to block the proposed rule, which would impose new requirements to receive previously accepted funds continent and new requirements. In 2012, the court overturned the portion of the Affordable Care Act requiring states to expand Medicaid for that reason. Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer concurred.,”  he explained.

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Vivek Saxena

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