Cities that accept community development block grants could be susceptible to federal meddling in local zoning laws under a new HUD rule proposed by the Obama administration
The Obama administration, in July 2013, quietly introduced a new regulation that critics say will dramatically increase Washington’s power over local zoning laws in every city and town that accepts federal block grants through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
And it’s the federal grants that could be used as a hook in the nose of these cities, forcing them to house illegal immigrants against their will.
Some are calling it the “Common Core of local zoning” that has flown under the radar for nearly a year. Instead of the U.S. Department of Education dictating education standards to local school districts, this rule change would allow HUD to influence zoning laws from the biggest cities down to the tiniest towns.
The proposed rule, which is set to take effect in October, would put teeth on the Fair Housing Act of 1968 by providing a set of standards, guidelines and goals, then use data to “measure” and “assess” how well a local community is meeting its Fair Housing obligations.
Some say the new rule will lead to “racial quotas” and will be exploited by HUD to aggressively absorb the nation’s swelling population of illegal immigrants into communities that are trying to keep them out.
HUD’s proposed “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule” showed up in the Federal Register on July 19, 2013. The rule has the backing of special-interest groups that promote open borders. One such group, with close ties to President Obama, is the Council of La Raza, which filed a public comment in favor of the rule.
La Raza said most illegal immigrants don’t know their rights and “fear deportation,” thus making them susceptible to housing discrimination.
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., defined the proposed rule in stark terms, saying it would lead to racial quotas and amounts to an “assault on the suburbs.”
He authored an amendment passed in the House of Representatives last month that would prohibit HUD from implementing the rule. The amendment was successfully attached to the Transportation, HUD and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for the 2015 fiscal year. A version of the bill has now been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. But with that body controlled by Democrats, Lee faces an uphill battle.
Gosar told WND Thursday he was encouraged that Lee had taken up the challenge.
“The proposed HUD Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule is another federal government mandate forced on the American people by an ideological administration looking to design a misguided utopian vision of local communities across the country,” Gosar said.
‘Free money’ with a catch
City and town councils are already starting to see HUD contracts related to block grants showing up in their agenda packets, most likely as part of the five-year consolidated plan for fair housing, which the feds require every city to adopt in order to keep getting the block grants. Many of the local councils will rubber stamp the agreements without ever knowing what’s in them, said Robert Romano, senior editor at Americans for Limited Government.
“It’s free money, right?” Romano said of HUD’s community development block grants. “Don’t consider what the strings attached are, don’t ask questions.”
He told WND that, starting in October, the rule will allow HUD “to come in and rezone an entire area” that doesn’t include enough affordable housing for a family that falls into any of HUD’s protected statuses based on race, religion, or national origin.
Romano said he sees the rule as “clearly unconstitutional” because the U.S. Constitution grants no power to the federal government over local city planning or zoning matters.
“La Raza is in favor of it so it looks like a plan to move illegals into peoples’ communities, against their will,” Romano said. “It also allows (the feds) to gerrymander for political purposes. It’s a way to get around whatever Republican gerrymandering had gone on after the 2010 election cycle. If they are doing this for low-income or disadvantaged purposes, well, what does that tell you? Low income tends to vote for Democrats.”
Obama slathers open borders lobby with cash
La Raza has raked in tens of millions of taxpayer dollars over the years with a big increase coming after one of its top officials got a job in the Obama White House. Last summer, a Judicial Watch investigation uncovered government documents that show La Raza’s federal funding more than doubled the year its one-time senior vice president, Cecilia Muñoz, joined the Obama administration, first as White House director of intergovernmental affairs and then as director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.
La Raza’s government cash boomed from $4.1 million to $11 million, according the internal documents obtained in Judicial Watch’s probe.
That type of incestuous activity is what Tom Fitton wrote about in his New York Times best-selling book, “The Corruption Chronicles.”
Fitton, president of Washington, D.C.-based Judicial Watch, said the new HUD regulation is yet another way for the Obama administration to divide communities along racial lines for its own political benefit.
“It’s classic Obama, Chicago-style, ACORN-style community organizing applied at large across the country,” he said. “The way it’s designed, it’s a dream regulation for the racial grievance industry. Basically, it empowers divisive groups like La Raza. It incorporates every liberal fantasy about the way American communities ought to organize themselves.”
Under these regulations, “You’d have the feds opining and complaining about where supermarkets are located. And it seems to incorporate the fraudulent ‘disparate impact theory,’ where it suggests that essentially race-neutral regulations will be seen as discriminatory if the impact is disparate along racial or other lines,” Fitton continued.
Disparate impact is a legal doctrine employed by the Fair Housing Act that says any policy can be labeled as discriminatory if it has a ‘disproportionate adverse impact’ against any minority group.
“The way it would work, any zoning that would have a disparate impact on immigrant communities, despite their being based on sensible reflection of good faith and people just wanting to make sure their communities are protected, would be impacted by these regulations,” Fitton said.
For example, if a city’s zoning laws favor home ownership as opposed to renting or favor single-family homes over multifamily apartments, it would be susceptible to allegations of a disparate impact on minorities. That could trigger a lawsuit, which then forces a zoning change and construction of new Section 8, government-subsidized apartments in middle-class suburban neighborhoods.
It’s already happening in Westchester County, New York, where a federal judge ruled recently that the county never met its obligation to “affirmatively further fair housing” after accepting $50 million of federal grants.
Westchester was sued by the Anti-Discrimination Center and the court found that the county failed to conduct studies that would have shown “race-based impediments” to affordable housing. This case will be used to send a message to the rest of the nation’s cities and counties, Romano believes. Basically, if a city has suburban areas that are deemed “too white” by HUD’s standards, they’ll be sued.
“Westchester’s their model for the country,” Romano said.
Fitton also predicts an upswing in lawsuits if the rule goes into effect as planned on Oct. 1.
“You’ll see lawsuits from groups like La Raza,” Fitton said. “It empowers the left to influence basic zoning rules. I don’t see a direct method of rewriting laws. But it’s the sort of thing that helps generate litigation.”
“It’s couched as voluntary when, in the end, everyone falls in line,” he said, “by dangling the (grant) money and suggesting that you are outside the law if you don’t comply. It’s an ideological regulation that fits perfectly with the president’s campaign promise, which he is keeping, to transform America.
“They pretend its all about numbers and measurements and just reporting data, it’s not about that,” Fitton continued. “It’s about changing the way people live, changing zoning laws, and putting in an extreme ideological agenda, a divisive ideological agenda, through regulation. We’ve seen it time and time again. We’ve seen it most recently in Eric Holder’s comments (about ‘racial animus’ among those protesting illegal immigration). This administration is run by people who have a deep seeded racial resentment.”
HUD’s public affairs office did not respond Thursday to a request for comment on the new rule.
‘Measure and monitor’ every community
According to HUD’s own website, block grant recipients under the rule would be “required to sign a certification to affirmatively further fair housing.” As part of the city’s consolidated plan, these recipients are required to undertake fair housing planning, which consists of “an Analysis of Impediments (AI) to fair housing choice” as well as “actions to cover the effects of the identified impediments” and “maintenance of records to support the affirmatively furthering fair housing certification.”
Cities would be forced to implement “new measuring tools” and do new assessments showing how well they are “affirmatively furthering fair housing.”
Romano wrote in a recent blog, “It’s not enough to arbitrarily implement amnesty — whether through refusal to enforce existing law or congressional action — the federal government wants to draw the maps of where the new residents will live, forcing local communities to make room whether they like it or not.”
While the benefits of the new regulation to Democrats would seem obvious, the vote to kill the rule in the Republican-controlled House was surprisingly close at 219 to 207.
“Establishment politicians of both parties, especially those in the Republican Party, you use the phrase ‘fair housing,’ and they run for the hills,” Fitton told WND. “It’s an agenda that usually has nothing to do with fair housing, it’s a government power grab. That’s the clear and present danger of a regulation like this. It would have the practical impact that it could lead to the federalization of all zoning laws.”
UPDATE: Americans for Limited Government has posted an “action alert” asking Americans to contact their U.S. senators and ask them to defund the Obama HUD rule before it takes effect on Oct. 1.