The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has finalized its "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing" rule that empowers the government to condition eligibility for community development block grants on redrawing zoning maps to achieve racial and income integration by building high density, low-income housing in middle-class neighborhoods.
In 2012, HUD dispersed about $3.8 billion of these grants to almost 1,200 municipalities. To continue receiving those grants, zoning plans will now need federal approval that they met with the government's racial guidelines.
This could be Obama's biggest power grab yet. HUD is now claiming authority over local zoning decisions in an effort to redraw every neighborhood in America - to achieve an unachievable, utopian vision of forced community development.
Yet the government assures us, in the regulation, that "This rule does not impose any land use or zoning laws on any local government." Really? It doesn't?
The rule continues, "Rather, the rule requires HUD program participants to perform an assessment of land use and zoning to evaluate their possible impact on fair housing choice."
Then, when those zoning plans are submitted in conjunction with the grant application, "This final rule, and Assessment Tools and guidance to be issued, will assist recipients of Federal funding to use that funding and, if necessary, adjust their land use and zoning laws in accordance with their existing legal obligation to affirmatively further fair housing [emphasis added]."
So, the program will not impose land use or zoning laws on communities, it will simply assess and if necessary adjust those laws as a condition for receiving the funding. But nobody forced them to take the money. Thanks for clearing that up.
Of course, choosing where you want to live is not discrimination, and yet, the Obama administration, through its rule, is saying that we have all apparently discriminated against ourselves by determining for ourselves where to buy or rent a home.
Never mind that some houses cost more than others, that some neighborhoods have higher taxes, and that not everyone can afford to live in every community - not by design, but simply due to high demand for housing in certain areas.
As demand for homes rise, so too does the price. That may lead to certain outcomes, such as pricing particular income brackets out of purchasing homes in more expensive communities, but that is not discriminatory. Real estate markets are volatile, and home values are very much subject to economic conditions.
Besides, individual cases of housing discrimination are already illegal and have been for almost 50 years.
The fact is, people make individual decisions every day about which neighborhood they want to live in. Every American with access to sufficient credit and an income can already buy a home in any neighborhood they can afford.
Yet the Obama administration believes it can tell people where to live based on statistical social engineering. It will fail. And not because of discrimination.
The government could spend the next hundred years redrawing neighborhoods, and the department would find, upon periodic review, that some people had up and moved somewhere else, and that, gosh, this affected the demographic makeup of those communities.
It would find that peoples of certain shared ethnic and language backgrounds often chose to live together in the same neighborhoods.
It would find that changing economic conditions regionally, and periodic national recessions, would affect the decisions of where people chose to live as employment opportunities shifted.
Here's a prediction: The more HUD sticks its unwanted nose into neighborhoods with its high-density, low-income housing goals, property values of affected communities will be adversely impacted, and those with the means will simply find somewhere else to live.
What will ensue will be a never-ending round of regulatory whack-a-mole with the department developing more and more coercive means to achieve perceived racial integration, only to be confounded every time economics and individual decisions do not produce the outcomes that the bureaucrats desire.
You cannot tell people where they must live - at least not yet.
Thankfully, the House of Representatives has already taken action, passing an amendment by U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) to the Transportation and HUD appropriations bill that would bar the department from using any funds to carry out the rules.
Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning urged Senate action. "It is up to the Senate to take action and then hold firm and insist that this blatant federal takeover of local zoning authority be stopped."
Obama thinks he can command the demographic makeup of neighborhoods. Yet the real estate market simply doesn't work that way. And Congress does not have to fund his radical, utopian rulemaking.
This is not about racial discrimination. Here's what is really racist: The implication the regulation accepts that apparently the only way poor minorities will ever live in a nice neighborhood is for the government to compel communities to build federally-subsidized, high-density housing there.
Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.