Congress Should Fight HUD Takeover of Local Zoning Decisions

July 17, 2015

On July 8, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it had finished writing a new rule that would empower bureaucrats in Washington, DC, while restricting city and county officials, to dictate local zoning requirements in any community across the country. The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule went into the Federal Register on July 16, and implementation of this radical new regulation will begin in mid August.
Radically reinterpreting the Fair Housing Act of 1968, this rule expands the ability of the federal government to audit the demographic makeup of communities around the country, effectively turning HUD into the National Zoning Authority for every neighborhood in the country. It does this by tying receipt of Community Development Block Grant funds to stringent requirements that ultimately require communities and neighborhoods to organize themselves around goals prescribed by federal bureaucrats.
The HUD officials who wrote the rule argue, “Increasing a neighborhood’s appeal to families with different income and ethnic profiles can encourage a more diversified population and reduce isolation.” This is true, but it begs the decisive question: which level of government is best equipped to decide how a neighborhood should increase its appeal to a diverse array of families, the federal government or local and state government?
Racial segregation and isolation have decreased significantly over the past half-century, but this new rule assumes those advances will not continue without Washington strong-arming its way into local zoning decisions, carving up the country block by block according to its own priorities and preferences. This is a clear example of how unaccountable regulators in Washington are seeking to engineer the very fabric of our society by giving federal bureaucrats control over local zoning decisions.
Congress has the power to fight back against this egregious power grab, by blocking funding for the rule’s implementation, and it has the responsibility to advocate for solutions that would keep housing decisions closest to the people who are affected by them.