Rising interest rates and a shortage of lower-cost houses under the Biden administration continue to make homeownership unobtainable for many young families. Instead of working to solve actual problems like these, President Joe Biden is once again choosing to prioritize the expansive promotion of woke diversity, equity, and inclusion ideology in housing policies, as a recent proposed rule from the Department of Housing and Urban Development shows.
The proposed regulation would encourage taxpayer-funded housing agencies to abandon the goal of ensuring fairness in the housing market and instead pursue the elimination of all inequality in housing and income.
Under the rule, program participants—entities like public housing agencies, grant recipients, private entities that supply public or subsidized housing, and other entities receiving HUD funds—must supply an “Equity Plan” to HUD, describing the steps they have taken to “eliminate disparities in housing-related opportunities.”
Without qualification, this statement has worrying implications; after all, people having different levels of income is certainly a cause of “disparities in housing-related opportunities.” And HUD seems to agree with all the implications of this radical statement.
With discrimination in housing illegal for over 60 years, the elimination of such disparities should, according to the department, be achieved by a laundry list of progressive policies. While HUD offers other options for communities to meet the Equity Plan standards, its goal of pushing progressive policies at the state and local level through its regulated entities is clear, and progressive activists will surely understand that subtext.
One policy that HUD says will satisfy its equity standards is universal basic income—a disastrous progressive policy that would destroy the American way of life.
Another example of a way for program participants to comply is to campaign to change local zoning laws in the name of “inclusionary zoning,” a capricious and misleading term that encompasses many policies to force below-market-value public housing into communities by removing zoning restrictions on such builds. This would, by HUD’s own admission, lead to “increased prices, reduced quantities [of housing],” and “market inefficiency.”
Although this is simply one option listed among several, it is not clear what interest a federal agency has in meddling in the perfectly legitimate and non-discriminatory affairs of how local communities zone themselves.
In a particularly egregious example, HUD suggests that government-sponsored entities might choose to begin “modifying preferences” of individuals to avoid inequality of outcomes in housing. HUD provides no qualification for what this means, except for a vague gesture at the possibility of “local leadership” “pushing” for progressive housing policies against the wishes of “local political ideology.” It seems that even having individual preferences about where to live or how to zone your own community is unacceptable inequity to the Biden administration.
HUD’s most drastic option calls for program participants to fight inequality of “community assets” and “different access” to community “critical resources.” These “resources” and “assets” can mean anything from schools, parks, and police to access to credit and community wealth.
This opaque language conceals HUD’s aim: to empower activists to pressure middle- and working-class neighborhoods into having their taxpayer-funded resources used up by people who didn’t pay for them. And of course, the only way to eliminate inequality of “assets” and “resources” is to make every neighborhood the same, doing away with the ability of Americans to choose to live in communities with public goods that they choose to fund through popular policies and administered by elected officials.
Of course, this proposed policy would not raise the overall level of community assets in society. Moving public housing to areas with high levels of community assets would expend these resources at a higher rate, lowering the average level of assets within that community.
When someone buys a house in a neighborhood with a high level of community assets, he pays taxes expecting to get access to high-quality public assets that he paid for—nice parks, clean streets, safe neighborhoods, and so on. HUD’s plan would take those resources and redistribute them, meaning residents might move away or vote not to fund such assets at all.
This is a textbook instance of the economic “Tragedy of the Commons,” a lesson that seems to have escaped the would-be redistributors at HUD. The department’s rule would be a drastic escalation of equity-based policy: The end pursued is nothing short of the mass redistribution of public and private property.
While there are options listed to fulfill HUD’s requirements that are not so destructive, it is ultimately inappropriate for the government to have progressive activism be an officially sanctioned means of meeting a regulatory requirement.
To make a bad situation worse, as a Heritage Foundation official public comment to HUD about this proposal explains, this regulation would be unlawful.
Under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, Congress demanded that the HUD secretary administer HUD’s programs “in a manner affirmatively to further” the Fair Housing Act’s policies and programs.
But the Biden administration in its regulation is pursuing aims far different from those of the statute. The entire proposal described above, with all of its DEI goals, is based on this six-word phrase, “in a manner affirmatively to further.” HUD pretends to think that those six words demand a 75-page wish-list of equity-based regulation.
This is nothing new from the Biden administration’s rogue administrative state: It used those same six filler words to demand that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac give out easier credit based on race. And that’s hardly a unique example of the administration’s leftist regulatory regime.
Ultimately, Biden’s aim is to get Americans to change their way of life in the name of woke ideology, starting by chipping away at the self-government of our communities. HUD’s regulation—like so many Biden administration proposals—is a harmful and unnecessary regulation divorced from the reality of American life.
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