Last week, Senator Mike Lee offered an amendment to the Treasury-Housing Appropriations bill denying funding to the Department of Housing and Urban Development's "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing" program.
As Senator Lee explained:
And yet the Obama administration wants to make this problem even worse by implementing its “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” rule, which was issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development last year. According to department officials, this rule is needed because “increasing a neighborhood’s appeal to families with different income and ethnic profiles can encourage a more diversified population and reduce isolation.”
In other words, this new regulation is designed to give unelected, anonymous bureaucrats in Washington the power to pick and choose who your new next-door neighbor will be. If they don’t believe your neighborhood is “diverse” enough, they will seize control of local zoning decisions—choosing what should be built, where, and who should pay for it—in order to make your neighborhood look more like they want it to.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has this power because far too many communities have become accustomed to relying on the Community Development Block Grant program, which gives federal dollars to local communities for projects designed to reduce poverty and housing segregation.
But a recent study by the Reason Foundation demonstrated that while the Community Development Block Grant program has been a boon for special interests and channeling taxpayer dollars to politically connected groups, it has been entirely unsuccessful in actually reducing poverty or housing segregation.
The so-called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule would only continue the Community Development Block Grant program’s well-established track record of failure.
Instead of helping all American families by lowering housing costs, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule would only add yet another layer of bureaucratic red tape on developers, making it less likely—not more—that they will find it worthwhile to build more housing units.
This week, the Senate will have a chance to fight back against this misguided power grab, by adopting an amendment to this year’s Transportation and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill that would prohibit Department of Housing and Urban Development officials from spending any money to implement the new rule.
Americans are indeed suffering from high housing prices. But the answer is not a top-down national zoning board in Washington.
One would think that denying funds to a program that usurps authority over neighborhoods from local authorities and private property owners would be a no-brainier for Senate Republicans.
Well no. The Lee Amendment was "tabled" by a vote of 60-37 and the following eight Republican Senators voted against it:
Even worse, these Senators (as well as the Democrats) got cover from a Susan Collins amendment that forbids HUD from dictating zoning standards. The problem is HUD is not using its power to forbid local governments from adopting certain zoning policies. Instead, it uses an old DC trick of using federal funds to bribe local governments to "voluntarily" change their zoning laws. So the Collins amendment addresses a problem that does not exist and does nothing to stop the real problem!
Some have criticized Senate leadership for failing to support Senator Lee and allowing wavering GOP Senators to cover themselves via the Collins amendment, thus failing to stand for the American people and the Constitution.
Jeremy Carl from National Review has more:
What’s more mystifying and discouraging about this is the utter political stupidity of the tactics employed by the GOP Senate leadership. Not only does it deprive the party of a great short-term issue, but of a long-term one as well — and one that would have paid both policy and political dividends. When communities better understand what AFFH allows, it is going to be absolutely toxic to everyone who voted for it — or at least it would have been if McConnell hadn’t allowed Democrats to take political cover with the Collins amendment.
The Collins amendment passed with the only nine votes against being Democrats from Senate jurisdictions so liberal that they could afford to say even the Collins non-concession was insufficient. So Senator McConnell managed to give the Democrats a fig leaf hid their vote for this monstrosity. Meanwhile the Lee amendment, which had, at least in theory, the support of all but 16 members of the GOP’s 54-member conference, including all of the GOP’s conservative senators, garnered only GOP votes. Not a single Democrat joined them.
McConnell once again worked with a rump faction of liberal Republicans to stop a conservative amendment. (Don’t be fooled by the fact that McConnell voted for the Lee amendment — he, and probably some others in the “yes’ camp, were just giving themselves political cover. If McConnell had actually wanted the Lee amendment, the Collins amendment would never have seen the light of day.)
Tags: Mike Lee, Senate, Housing