In September, Congress averted a partial government shutdown when it voted to continue appropriations at 2015 levels, but those only go through December 11, when another omnibus spending bill or continuing resolution will be needed.
As such, that means there is still time for Congress to consider attaching policy riders to the legislation that limit the size and scope of government, and deny President Barack Obama funds to carry out his agenda.
First on the list should be the July 2015 Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rule that will force local communities to build evenly distributed neighborhoods based on income and race.
In 2012, HUD dispersed about $3.8 billion of these grants to about 1,200 municipalities. To continue receiving those grants, zoning plans will now need federal approval that they met with the government’s racial guidelines.
According to the rule, “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].”
These are racial and income housing quotas, plain and simple. HUD is saying that your community’s zoning plan might be discriminatory because if it has too many nice homes to live in that poor minorities cannot afford. Since when is living in a nice neighborhood racist?
In the meantime, local zoning rules only determine what can be built where, not who can live in a community. Real housing discrimination, that is, refusing to rent or sell based on race, has been illegal since the 1960s.
The housing market determines what houses will cost based primarily on demand. Can’t afford your dream home? Sorry, that’s not discrimination, that’s economics.
But under the new rule, HUD will use that very type of statistical analysis to say if your neighborhood is racist, and condition receipt of federal grant monies on that determination.
Which is why Congress needs to act. In June, it passed 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. Companion legislation in the Senate by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), “Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act of 2015,” would do the same and also deny the use of funds to “design, build, maintain, utilize, or provide access to a Federal database of geospatial information on community racial disparities or disparities in access to affordable housing.”
Language similar to the Lee-Gosar defund could easily be attached to the upcoming spending bill for FY 2016.
The question Republican lawmakers should ask themselves with regards to defunding the rule — which most folks truthfully have not even heard of — would Obama shut down the government to impose his racial housing quotas?
No, he probably wouldn’t. And even if he did, he’d have to explain what was so important to merit a veto. He’d have to make a case that there is rampant housing discrimination when there is none. That he intends, in essence, to build high-density, low income housing in your neighborhood.
Is that the debate he really wants to be having? The whole reason this was done via federal regulation and not the traditional legislative process is precisely because the politics of it are so toxic. So that you wouldn’t hear about it.
Republicans should be relishing this debate, and dare Obama to veto legislation that takes out the HUD rule to redraw every neighborhood in America that accepts federal money. GOP leaders might say, we just overcame the last housing bubble that tried to push so-called affordable housing loans on people who it turns out couldn’t afford it. And now Obama wants to do it again?
It’s a good debate to be had, about what is a responsible approach to housing, and what is a utopian social engineering experiment with unintended consequences.
Overall, Congress just needs to remind Obama that it’s your neighborhood he’s messing with, and act accordingly. This is an issue congressional Republicans can win on.
This is a guest post by Robert Romano senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.