01.23.2020 0

Local zoning saved from Obama HUD rule by Trump administration after five-year fight

By Rick Manning

In 2014, local zoning was slated for elimination by the Obama Department of Housing and Urban Development using a proposed rule known as “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” but something happened on the way to far left utopians taking over decisions on where housing should be placed in local communities – Americans for Limited Government stepped into the fray.

A June 5, 2014, press release titled, “Time to defund HUD racial zoning rule in appropriations vote” fired the first shot in a five and a half year battle to stop the federalization of local zoning.   Below is the original press statement,

Time to defund HUD racial zoning rule in appropriations vote

June 5, 2014, Fairfax, Va.—Americans for Limited Government President Nathan Mehrens today issued the following statement urging the House of Representatives to defund implementation of the “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” rule that will empower the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to condition eligibility for community development block grants on redrawing zoning maps to achieve racial and income integration:

“Starting in October, HUD is empowering itself to redraw zoning maps in any locality that accepts any portion of the $3.5 billion a year in community development block grants from the federal government in an attempt to create evenly distributed neighborhoods based on racial composition and income. This is a utopian pipe dream, and social engineering at its worst.

“Neighborhoods are constituted not based on racial quotas, but on economics. Housing discrimination based on race has been illegal for decades. There is no discrimination in people choosing for themselves where they want to live, and yet that is exactly what HUD is seeking to regulate.

“HUD has no place in local zoning decisions, and it is up to the House of Representatives to defund this dangerous rulemaking through a rider to the Transportation and HUD appropriations bill coming up next week before the regulation’s projected October implementation.”

One day later, Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) picked up the cause by introducing an amendment to the HUD appropriations bill defunding the implementation of AFFH which passed four days later in the House by a 240 – 181 margin.  However, Senate passage was much more problematic.

Over the course of the next three years, I had multiple meetings with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s staff facilitated by Erica Suares who is one of the unsung heroes in the Senate.  Those meetings always included at least five easy defunds that the Senate should pursue which were already in the House appropriations language.  The Gosar defund was always one of these.

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) led the charge in the Senate with his legislation calling for ending the AFFH regulations, and his leadership helped keep the issue at the forefront in the appropriations defund battles.  Finally, on May 19, 2016, the Senate passed substitute language offered by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) which defunded the planning tools for AFFH implementation by an 87 – 9 margin.

However, even with the House and Senate passing different language trying to stop what became known as Obamazoning, it wasn’t until the massive spending Omnibus of 2017 when the Collins language prohibiting HUD from implementing AFFH became part of the spending bill, and with that you would think the story would have ended.

But noooo, because this is DC where bad ideas only go into hibernation but never truly die, some “conservative advocates” decided that the regulations revising AFFH should force local governments to change their zoning laws to cut red tape to enable more rapid housing development.  While the problem of local red tape delaying new home and other developments for years is real, Americans for Limited Government stayed philosophically consistent.  If the federal government dictating local zoning outcomes was wrong under the Obama administration, then it was still wrong under the Trump administration no matter the outcome goals.

Finally after meetings with HUD, a personal conversation with Secretary Carson, attending a HUD stakeholder meeting in Chicago, and multiple conversations throughout the Trump administration, the final AFFH rule was filed.

And we won.  It was amended to preserve local control over zoning laws.

Fighting for limited government is not an occasional venture, but an on-going, non-stop battle and last week, outside of the spotlight of the media, Americans for Limited Government won a huge victory.

Don’t expect any Fox News appearances or special reports, because the victory was about the guts of who makes decisions that impact each of our lives, and those who still believe that local government with all its faults, best reflects the will of its citizens than Washington, D.C., earned a hard fought victory against enormous odds.

As we enter the first week of the impeachment trial, it can seem that the world has been turned on its head, just know, that we can win.  It just takes a few great leaders and for each of us to keep in the fight and never give up.

Local zoning was saved, and a vast majority of Americans will never even know that it was threatened.

Rick Manning is the President of Americans for Limited Government.

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