A home in suburban Scarsdale, New York
If you live in the suburbs or you’re a city dweller eyeing a move to a quiet cul-de-sac where your kids can play outside, you need to know about Joe Biden’s plan for a federal takeover of local zoning laws.
The ex-veep wants to ramp up an Obama-era social engineering scheme called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing that mercifully barely got underway before President Trump took office, vowing to stop it.
Biden’s plan is to force suburban towns with single-family homes and minimum lot sizes to build high-density affordable housing smack in the middle of their leafy neighborhoods — local preferences and local control be damned.
Starting in 2015, President Barack Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development floated a cookie-cutter requirement for “balanced housing” in every suburb. “Balanced” meant affordable even for people who need federal vouchers. Towns were obligated to “do more than simply not discriminate,” as a 2013 HUD proposal explained. Rather, towns had to make it possible for low-income minorities to choose suburban living and provide “adequate support to make their choices possible.”
Had the rule been implemented nationwide, towns everywhere would have had to scrap zoning, build bigger water and a bigger sewer to support high-density living, expand schools and social services and add mass transit. All pushing up local taxes. Towns that refused would lose their federal aid.
The rule was one of the worst abuses of the Obama-Biden administration — a raw power grab masquerading as racial justice
In Westchester, County Executive Rob Astorino battled the Obama-Biden administration for years, successfully resisting the baseless smear of racism. Zoning laws limit what can be built in a neighborhood in neutral fashion, Astorino explained, not who can live there.
To be absolutely clear, denying anyone the chance to rent or buy a home because of their race is abhorrent and illegal. It should be prosecuted whenever it still happens.
African Americans have been steadily leaving inner cities and choosing suburban lifestyles, according to Brookings Institution data. Many families — of all races — want the peace of mind of letting their kids ride bikes around quiet neighborhood streets. That’s what zoning laws provide.
The real barrier to suburban living is money. Living in the ’burbs isn’t cheap. HUD Secretary Ben Carson told a House committee last May that “people can only afford to live in certain places.” It’s “not because George Wallace is blocking the door.”
Biden and the equality warriors are using accusations of racism to accomplish something different. Their message is: You worked and saved to move to the suburbs, but you can’t have that way of life unless everyone else can, too.
Count on Trump to make Biden’s war on the suburbs a key issue in the election. In his Rose Garden news conference Thursday, the president came out swinging, warning that Biden would “totally destroy the beautiful suburbs” by “placing far-left Washington bureaucrats in charge of local zoning.”
In response, the left and its media allies played the race card. As usual. On MSNBC, Princeton University Professor Eddie Glaude Jr. said, “I hear the words of a racist.” CNN accused the president of fearmongering “white suburban voters.” But it’s CNN that is being racist — by assuming that only whites own homes in the suburbs.
Trump is talking to suburban homeowners of all ethnicities. If you buy a house in a neighborhood with quarter-acre zoning, you don’t want a high-density housing complex built at the end of the street.
The president won the suburbs in 2016, but polls show Trump trailing in the suburbs largely because of opposition from women. They need to focus on what’s at stake for their families.
Tens of thousands of New Yorkers have fled the city in the past four months, many of them spending their savings and taking out a mortgage to buy a home in the suburbs. The same dynamic is playing out in many other regions nationwide. For these transplants, the stakes are high.
The outcome of the November election will determine the value of their new home, the size of their property tax bill and the character of the town they now call home.
Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York.