The Proposal To End Single-Family Housing In America

One of the great things about America is that many Americans are homeowners. As homeowners, they create individual homes that reflect their personalities. That is the reason driving through many of our cities can be a fascinating study of architecture and how it changed through our history. Well, if the Biden administration gets its way, single-family housing will be a thing of the past.

The National Review posted an article today detailing how the Biden administration is planning to eliminate single-family housing:

The article reports:

How, exactly, does Biden plan to end single-family zoning? According to the fact sheet released by the White House, “Biden is calling on Congress to enact an innovative new competitive grant program that awards flexible and attractive funding to jurisdictions that take concrete steps to eliminate [‘exclusionary zoning’].” In other words, Biden wants to use a big pot of federal grant money as bait. If a county or municipality agrees to weaken or eliminate its single-family zoning, it gets the federal bucks.

The wildly overreaching Obama-Biden era Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation — which Biden has pledged to revive — works in a similar fashion. The difference is that by adding another gigantic pot of federal money to the Community Development Block Grants that are the lure of AFFH, Biden makes it that much harder for suburbs to resist applying — and that much more punishing to jurisdictions that forgo a share of the federal taxes they’ve already paid so as to protect their right to self-rule.

Are federal carrots enough, however? Prosperous suburbs may forgo the grants in an effort to secure their independence. The success of Biden’s initiative depends in part on exactly how much money gets allocated to grants tied to zoning reform. The details of that ask haven’t yet been released, but the $213 billion allocated to Biden’s total affordable housing initiative leave room for an awfully big pot for the anti-zoning portion.

I don’t think our Founding Fathers envisioned a country where the government could tell you what kind of a house you could live in.

The article concludes:

Last summer, when California floated a measure to kill single-family zoning, there was powerful opposition from residents who objected to a law that would make their neighborhoods denser, noisier, and more filled with traffic. Predominantly minority residents in South Los Angeles saw the bill as an “affront to how hard Black Americans fought to join single-family neighborhoods, battling redlining, racist covenants and even targeted violence. And they worried that suddenly relaxing zoning rules would not only ruin the low density they enjoyed, but also unleash an investment flood that would accelerate displacement of the Black community as developers scooped up old homes and built new ones unaffordable to most in the community.”

The zoning issue is tough and complex. It balances principled libertarian objections to zoning and the interests of developers, on the one hand, against core principles of federalism and local control, on the other. Massive spending and taxation are fundamental to the federal effort to override local zoning laws. Neighborhood preservation vies with “creative destruction.” There are plenty of complex, conflicting, and legitimate considerations in the balance. But reducing the zoning issue to bogus charges of “racism” is the way Democrats play the game nowadays.

If Republicans find the courage to stand up to the usual nonsense and oppose this big-government attempt to kill off the federalist system itself, they will find not only the vast majority of Republicans, but a great many independents and Democrats in their corner.

This is something to watch. If the infrastructure bill passes the Senate, it will not only kill our wallets, it will also end a lot of our freedom to choose where and how we live.

Putting An End To A Really Bad Idea

Breitbart reported yesterday that President Trump has announced that his administration is moving forward to eliminate the AFFH (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing) rule. I wrote about this rule on July 1 (article here). The goal of the rule is to end single-family housing in the suburbs.

The article at Breitbart reports:

During his remarks last Thursday, the president targeted the disastrous Obama rule.

“The Democrats in D.C. have been and want to, at a much higher level, abolish our beautiful and successful suburbs by placing far-left Washington bureaucrats in charge of local zoning decisions,” Trump said on the White House South Lawn. “They are absolutely determined to eliminate single-family zoning, destroy the value of houses and communities already built, just as they have in Minneapolis and other locations that you read about today. Your home will go down in value, and crime rates will rapidly rise.”

Trump continued:

Joe Biden and his bosses from the radical left want to significantly multiply what they’re doing now. And what will be the end result is you will totally destroy the beautiful suburbs. Suburbia will be no longer as we know it. So, they wanted to defund and abolish your police and law enforcement while at the same time destroying our great suburbs.

“The suburb destruction will end with us,” the president said, adding:

Next week, I will be discussing the AFFH rule — AFFH rule, a disaster — and our plans to protect the suburbs from being obliterated by Washington Democrats, by people on the far left that want to see the suburbs destroyed, that don’t care. People have worked all their lives to get into a community, and now they’re going to watch it go to hell. Not going to happen, not while I’m here.

The article concludes:

The AFFH rule is a bald-faced federal government takeover of every community. By using its power to approve banking and funding, the federal government would have the ability to tell suburban areas who will be allowed to live in their neighborhoods and what kind of homes they can build to force immigrant and low-income residents into every neighborhood. In the end, the rule would destroy wealth and lower property values. It would also tend to undermine any bastion of conservative voters by injecting government-dependent voters into every single American community.

Ending this rule is a welcome idea to those who imagine that the federal government should not be telling people how to build their communities.

Notice that this is a government program–not a law passed by Congress. It is time we went back to the idea that laws are passed by Congress–not created by un-elected government bureaucracies.

The Plan To End The Suburbs

Yesterday Stanley Kurtz at The National Review  posted an article about the Democrat’s plan to abolish the suburbs.

The National Review reports:

The suburbs are the swing constituency in our national elections. If suburban voters knew what the Democrats had in store for them, they’d run screaming in the other direction. Unfortunately, Republicans have been too clueless or timid to make an issue of the Democrats’ anti-suburban plans. It’s time to tell voters the truth.

I’ve been studying Joe Biden’s housing plans, and what I’ve seen is both surprising and frightening. I expected that a President Biden would enforce the Obama administration’s radical AFFH (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing) regulation to the hilt. That is exactly what Biden promises to do. By itself, that would be more than enough to end America’s suburbs as we’ve known them, as I’ve explained repeatedly here at NRO.

What surprises me is that Biden has actually promised to go much further than AFFH. Biden has embraced Cory Booker’s 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. Shouldn’t voters know that this is what’s at stake in the election?

It is no exaggeration to say that progressive urbanists have long dreamed of abolishing the suburbs. (In fact, I’ve explained it all in a book.) Initially, these anti-suburban radicals wanted large cities to simply annex their surrounding suburbs, like cities did in the 19th century. That way a big city could fatten up its tax base. Once progressives discovered it had since become illegal for a city to annex its surrounding suburbs without voter consent, they cooked up a strategy that would amount to the same thing.

This de facto annexation strategy had three parts: (1) use a kind of quota system to force “economic integration” on the suburbs, pushing urban residents outside of the city; (2) close down suburban growth by regulating development, restricting automobile use, and limiting highway growth and repair, thus forcing would-be suburbanites back to the city; (3) use state and federal laws to force suburbs to redistribute tax revenue to poorer cities in their greater metropolitan region. If you force urbanites into suburbs, force suburbanites back into cities, and redistribute suburban tax revenue, then presto! You have effectively abolished the suburbs.

I wonder if Democrats who live in the suburbs were aware of this plan, would they vote for Joe Biden?

Please follow the link above to read the entire article. So far President Trump is the only person willing to fight this move.

Real-life Stories About Green Energy

Massachusetts is generally a pretty liberal state. Green energy is popular there. However, recently there have been some events that have caused some state residents to question the wisdom of ‘going green.’

On February 13th (updated February 14th) The Cape Cod Times reported:

After years of running into roadblocks, residents who live near Future Generation Wind made some headway Wednesday night when the Plymouth Board of Health unanimously voted to declare the four turbines along Route 25 a nuisance.

“We want to do justice to this and to all the parties involved,” board Chairwoman Birgitta Kuehn said.

The board also unanimously voted to take action on the turbines within a reasonable time.

Up to 30 residents from Bourne and Plymouth crowded into the meeting room to complain again about how the turbines negatively affect their lives on a daily basis.

“It is amazing to me that these turbines were built in a residential area,” board Vice Chairman Barry Potvin said. “This is clearly something the Board of Health has to take up, because we are sworn to protect the health and safety of the people who live in this area.”

The article explains some of the difficulties in removing the turbines:

The four 500-foot ConEdison Solutions wind turbines were installed in June 2016. They sit close to the Bourne border, but because they are located in Plymouth, it has been difficult for Bourne residents to fight through their own town government.

Since their installation, the Buzzards Bay Action Committee, a nonprofit group dedicated to preserve and protect Buzzards Bay, has collected approximately 360 complaints from residents in the area. Complaints include shadow flicker, nausea, vertigo, sleep disturbance, headaches, anxiety and sound disturbances.

The article concludes:

In October 2018, the Bourne Board of Health found the turbines were a nuisance and sent a letter to the Plymouth Board of Health, Planning Board, Board of Selectmen and Zoning Board of Appeals, which is responsible for licensing the turbines. No action had been taken since.

If the turbines are removed it would mirror what happened to the two turbines that were at the Falmouth wastewater treatment plant.

After residents in that town complained of the negative impacts from the turbines, a Barnstable Superior Court judge ordered in 2013 that neither turbine could spin again. The November town meeting voted to spend $2.5 million to dismantle the turbines.

The Falmouth turbines, however, were town-owned on town property. The Plymouth turbines are on private property and are owned by a private company.

Moving forward, members of the Buzzards Bay Action Committee plan to attend the Plymouth selectmen’s meeting Feb. 25 to further discuss the issue and possible next steps.

So let’s look at some of the consequences of this particular rush to ‘green energy.’ The residents whose electricity comes from the company that put up the windmills have paid for the installation of the windmills in the form of higher electric rates. Since Massachusetts’ electric customers have an option to choose their electric provider, I suspect the company has lost customers. Meanwhile, I would guess that the rates for the remaining customers have increased. The residents of the towns involved are also expected to use their tax money to dismantle the windmills. This adventure into ‘green energy’ which relied on government subsidies rather than the free market has been a lose-lose for the residents of the towns involved.

The only reasonable path to ‘green energy’ is the free market. Even at that, it may be that the search for ‘green energy’ is similar to the never-ending search for a perpetual motion machine, a concept that totally ignores the basic principles of physics.

Ending The War On The Suburbs

The New York Post posted an article yesterday about President Trump undoing a policy put in place under President Obama that would impact the freedom of Americans to live where they choose to live in the neighborhoods they choose.

The article reports:

During the Obama administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development tried to install Washington bureaucrats as the decision makers for how communities across all 50 states should grow. Using an obscure rule called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, HUD sought to remake America’s cities, towns and villages by forcing any community that was getting federal funds to meet racial quotas.

To do this, HUD applied the notion of “disparate impact,” which unilaterally deems housing patterns to be discriminatory if minority representation is not evenly spread across the jurisdiction. Communities with high concentrations of minorities are automatically labeled segregated.

Westchester served as the petri dish for HUD’s “grand experiment.” On Jan. 1, 2010, the day I was inaugurated as county executive, a federal consent decree signed by my predecessor went into effect requiring Westchester to spend at least $56 million to build 750 units of affordable housing over the next seven years in 31 white communities — or face crippling financial penalties.

The article details the problems the program created in Westchester County, New York.

The article then notes the solution:

The impasse finally ended with the election of Donald Trump. Elections matter.

But the big win came last month, when — based on Westchester’s experience and expertise from groups like Americans for Limited Government — the Trump administration replaced Team Obama’s AFFH regulation with its own.

Gone is the federal mandate dictating the modeling of communities based on statistical formulas. Restored to local officials is the power that gives them the flexibility to weigh real-world factors in making housing decisions. Restored, too, is the prosecution of bad actors by the courts — not bureaucrats — under the Fair Housing Act.

And builders are now more likely to build affordable housing, since the attached strings have been removed.

The Democratic candidates for president didn’t get the memo. They continue to support radical, divisive and failed housing policies aimed at abolishing single-family residential zoning. And they’d use billions of our tax dollars to local communities — and the threat of lawsuits — to get their way.

The United States needs affordable housing. By replacing social engineering with common sense, guarded by strong nondiscrimination laws, the country is now better positioned to meet that need — and that’s a victory for everyone.

The free market coupled with individual choice and freedom is always the best solution for any problem.

How The Federal Government Interferes In Local Matters

Yesterday The Daily Caller posted an article about a Justice Department lawsuit against two New Jersey towns that had turned down building permits for mosques.

The article reports:

In a new court filing, the DOJ alleges that the Bernards Township Planning Board discriminated against the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge (ISBR) and violated the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act during a lengthy application process that ultimately resulted in the town’s denial of the proposed project.

The town is accused of discriminating against ISBR on the basis of its religion, applying standards of review to the ISBR it had not applied to other congregations and assemblies, and imposing a burden on members of the ISBR for practicing their religion.

“RLUIPA ensures that municipalities must treat religious land use applications like any other land use application,” U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said in a statement. “But here, township officials kept moving the goalposts by using ever-changing local requirements to effectively deny this religious community the same access as other faiths.”

The article points out some interesting facts about the case:

The township also calls into question the propriety of a relationship between a member of the ISBR and a lead DOJ investigator. Attorneys for the township also confirm that a lawyer representing the mosque was in contact with DOJ investigators well before the planning board reached any decision regarding the ISBR’s application. “These communications, unknown by the Township at the time, suggest an inappropriate collusion with Plaintiffs rather than an unbiased review.”

The ISBR planned to buy four acres of land to construct a mosque approximately 4,200 square feet. It would be interesting to know who is paying for the mosque. The leader of the ISBR is a Pakistani immigrant named Mohammad Ali Chaudry. The other part of this issue is whether or not the residents of the town have the right to say that they don’t want the mosque located where it is planned. Leaders of the town claim it is a land use issue and not a religious issue, but in battling the Justice Department, that may not matter.

Again, we are back at the issue of state’s rights and local control. Many American mosques are funded by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in The Holy Land Foundation Trial. As much as I don’t approve of religious discrimination, all religions are not equal. There are mosques in America that are encouraging terrorism. The Justice Department would be better off spending its time and money to find out which mosques are preaching terrorism and dealing with that issue rather than getting involved in a local zoning issue. It should be up to the town to decide whether or not to allow the mosque to be built.

Some Of Many Reasons The Damage From Hurricane Sandy Has Not Been Repaired

On Monday the Wall Street Journal posted an article telling the story of one homeowner‘s struggle to rebuild her damaged home in Connecticut.

The article relates the homeowner’s story:

Our first exposure to the town zoning authorities came a couple of weeks after Sandy. We’d met with insurance adjusters, contractors and “remediation experts.” We’d had about a foot of Long Island Sound sloshing around the ground floor of our house in Connecticut, and everyone had the same advice: Rip up the floors and subfloors, and tear out anything—wiring, plumbing, insulation, drywall, kitchen cabinets, bookcases—touched by salt water. All of it had to go, and pronto, too, lest mold set in.

Yet it wasn’t until the workmen we hired had ripped apart most of the first floor that the phrase “building permit” first wafted past us. Turns out we needed one. “What, to repair our own house we need a building permit?”

Of course.

Before you could get a building permit, however, you had to be approved by the Zoning Authority. And Zoning—citing FEMA regulations—would force you to bring the house “up to code,” which in many cases meant elevating the house by several feet. Now, elevating your house is very expensive and time consuming—not because of the actual raising, which takes just a day or two, but because of the required permits.

The article further explains that there is also a zoning limit on how high your house can be–so if you meet the requirement to raise it, you have to make sure you don’t raise it too much.. The homeowner goes on to detail the maze of government gobbledygook encountered in trying to repair and re-occupy his home.

The article concludes:

We’ve spent a few thousand dollars on a lawyer to appeal to Zoning, many thousands in rent, and hundreds getting a fresh appraisal of our house. The latest from our lawyer: Because of our new appraisal, we may be able to “apply for a zoning permit.” “Apply,” mind you.

I used to think that our house was, you know, our house. The bureaucrats have taught me otherwise. But then I also used to think that Franz Kafka wrote a species of dark fantasy. I know now that he was turning out nonfiction.

Our problem is not the lack of money to repair the damage from Hurricane Sandy–it is the government bureaucracy that is hindering the homeowners from getting back into their own homes.

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We Are Losing Our Freedom

Big Government posted a story today about U.S. Army Specialist Mark Grapin, who lives in Fairfax County, Virginia. He recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq and decided to build a treehouse for his sons. The Fairfax Country Zoning Board demanded that he tear down the treehouse after an anonymous complaint. After Specialist Grapin went to the media, an online petition was started, and Specialist Grapin was able to convince the Zoning Board to allow him to leave the treehouse up for five years.

I’m glad he got to keep the treehouse for five years, but it bothers me that one person might have stopped his children from the fun of playing in their treehouse.

 

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