Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. War on the Suburbs: How HUD’s Housing Policies Became a Weapon for Social Change

 

There are few things more synonymous with the American way of life than the suburbs. While certainly not without problems, the suburbs have been home to middle-class Americans since the end of World War 2, and even before. But the suburbs are under attack from certain elements of the left as a source of social inequality and (what else?) “white privilege” and “white supremacy.”

If you are alarmed by this article, that’s a good thing. Because these elements of the American left seek nothing more than the total destruction of your way of life, from the people who live in your communities to the types of houses that you live in to the places where you will be allowed to shop and how you get from one place to another.

The policy is called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH), but beyond this specific HUD policy, there’s a philosophical and political attack on suburbs that goes well in excess of any single policy. There is, without mincing words, a War on the Suburbs in America. It is a war not against a geographical location or a type of housing or community, but an attack on a way of life.

What Is Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing?

Most people are aware of the existence of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but don’t think much about it. However, HUD has a lot more ambition than you might think: Under the Obama Administration, they made it their mission to radically change the makeup of America by attacking the suburbs.

AFFH isn’t just a program. It’s a directive and a sort of raison d’etre for the entire Department. Effectively, the program requires any town or other jurisdiction receiving federal housing funds to keep track of statistics with regard to race, disability, familial status, economic status, English proficiency, and other categories. Any discrepancy between the community’s records and those of targets set by the federal government is considered evidence of discrimination and funds might be withheld.

AFFH isn’t just “social engineering.” It is a profoundly totalitarian system that forms the bedrock of HUD’s war on the suburbs.

While the alleged inspiration for this is – what else? – “equality (of outcome),” the truth is much more hard-nosed. The War on the Suburbs serves the dual purpose of both punishing those who do not kowtow to the totalitarian aims of the Democratic Party as well as further atomizing these communities, breaking them up, urbanizing them and making them easier prey for big business and big government alike.

HUD has moved away from AFFH, or at least the Obama Administration’s interpretation of it, under the Trump Administration. The changes greatly dismayed the Obama-era HUD Secretary Julián Castro, who said they did nothing less than gut what AFFH was under the Obama Administration. While the new way of doing AFFH was challenged in court, the courts sided with the administration for once.

However, threats of AFFH resurfacing have come up during Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign. Tucker Carlson discussed the effects of AFFH, as well as Biden’s plan to continue the regulation:

Americans are fleeing urban areas in huge numbers. Big cities are just too mismanaged, they’re too dangerous. Unless you’re very rich or very poor, you’re getting out. New York City lost 53,000 people in 2019 – they will lose far more than that this year. Most of these refugees have relocated to the suburbs, where they imagine they are safe from the effects of disastrous urban policy. But they’re not. Democrats want to abolish the suburbs. They are too clean and nice, therefore by definition, they are racist. The Biden campaign has highly specific plans on how to do this.

It’s called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, it’s a HUD regulation, it was written during the Obama Administration. Biden’s advisor’s plan to enforce it. It will cut off critical federal funds from municipalities unless those municipalities submit to federal control of urban planning. Towns will be ordered to abolish zoning for single-family housing – because single-family homes, needless to say, are racist. Low-income, federally subsidized apartments will go up in the suburbs. It’s a good bet you won’t see any of this, you won’t see projects being built in Aspen or Martha’s Vineyard or anywhere else Eric Holder vacations. But in your neighborhood? Oh yeah.

How Did the War on the Suburbs Start?

The War on the Suburbs began under President Barack Obama. Obama himself was an opponent of suburban sprawl and declared in February 2009 that the days of suburban sprawl were “over.” Obama’s rhetoric – urban-centric – can often be contrasted with that of the previous Democratic President, Bill Clinton, who self-consciously and ostentatiously sought ways to connect with suburban and rural voters. In comparison, Obama appointees at HUD and EPA tended to come from big cities in blue states.

The term they use is “smart growth.” This effectively means forcing more and more Americans to live in higher-density areas. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and Undersecretary Ron Sims, Transportation undersecretary for policy Roy Kienitz, and the EPA’s John Frece all favored this agenda. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was quite straightforward in his language: the administration sought to “coerce” Americans out of cars and onto light rail. The stimulus package passed by the president to the tune of $8 billion focused largely on light rail, which only benefits Americans living around a handful of larger cities.

Such policies have little chance of passing through legislation. However, there are administrative and bureaucratic means to foist these programs on American citizens. Bureaucratic czars can simply deny funding to cities and states that are not in compliance with the diktats of the president’s agenda.

Europe, the UK in particular, provides an example of what houses will look like when the urbanite proponents of “smart growth” get their way – the average house size in the UK is a scant 800 square feet.

83 percent of home buyers prefer the single-family home commonly associated with the suburbs when house shopping, according to the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Home Builders.

Beyond aesthetics or a “green” politic, there is another reason why those favoring a strong role of big government and those who cheer for “woke” big corporations might prefer to see the suburbs committed to the dustbin of history: the suburbs represent individual aspiration and decentralized control. Cities represent a highly bureaucratized form of living with much less individual ownership. Put in simple terms, urbanites are more atomized, more controlled by central authority, and have less skin in the game – perfect consumers, perfect employees.

There is an element of class war here: the ideological issues that play the best in suburbs (roads, wages, schools, housing prices) are effectively the issues of the middle class. Compare with the agenda advanced by the Democratic Party since the lame-duck years of the Obama Administration: climate change, “gender” ideology, amnesty for illegals and racial grievances. The latter of these are largely the purview of affluent, professional-managerial class types who tend to congregate in America’s urban centers.

Finally, the rise of the War on the Suburbs coincides with a rise in suburban voters going red. While this trend has been underway since 1966, it was largely reversed under both Obama and Clinton. However, Scott Brown’s election to the Senate in 2010, and Mitt Romney’s failed campaign in 2012, heralded the beginning of a move by suburban voters to the Republican Party. The difference has been even more pronounced at the state and local level where governors, senators, and congressmen have won office thanks to overwhelming support from the suburbs.

Democrats are right to fear the suburban edge. Even though there has been explosive growth in urban areas over the last decade, it is mostly concentrated in what are mostly cities in name only – Ft. Worth, Phoenix, Charlotte, Houston – rather than classically dense urban areas such as Boston, Philadelphia or San Francisco. Thus, the War on the Suburbs is ultimately a political weapon.

Predictably, even establishment conservatives have joined in this pile on. No less an institution than The American Conservative, founded by Pat Buchanan, has put forward the notion that the suburbs and the single-family housing unit are a Big Government program that need to be abolished. This article does little more than put a market-friendly spin on the vitriol produced by the various left-wing sources cited. It is a striking indictment of movement conservatism.

Continue reading War on the Suburbs: How HUD’s Housing Policies Became a Weapon for Social Change at Ammo.com.

Published in Domestic Policy
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 11 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Unsk Member

    Great post Ammo.

    I think it would be informative for people to think of this new HUD directive as directing AntiFa and BLM to take over every planning department in the country. If you think a riot every night in your neighborhood improves the quality of life, then this new directive is for you. It is specifically designed to bring the worst elements in society to every well functioning neighborhood to disrupt and destroy them. It is more than a War on the Suburbs, it is really a War on You and Your Family. It will increase crime exponentially all around you with the intent of either driving you from your home or to make your life a living hell.

    Never mind that is Unconstitutional as hell. That worn out Constitutional thingy has not stopped the Nihilist Dems on bit. 

    Joel Kotkin has written a lot about this movement and if you want to understand more read him. The Smart Growth thing is a coercive tool to limit people residential choices to the urban core which will be controlled by BLM and AntiFA. Urban Infill housing is on average according to Joel 2 1/2 times the expense of suburban housing so affordability when you cut through all the rhetorical crap is not the goal. Full Societal change aiming to wipe out the whiter shade of the middle and upper classes is the goal. This is full on genocidal class warfare. Social Justice directives will mean that you will not be even be a second class citizen in this new urban paradise , more like third class or below with right that can be ripped up on a whim. 

    • #1
    • August 14, 2020, at 4:15 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  2. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge

    It reminds me of China, where people have to be good CCP supporters in order to be allowed to have housing. The DNC is not only in league with the CCP, they are emulating them. Thanks Obama.

    • #2
    • August 14, 2020, at 6:18 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul StinchfieldJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Ammo.com: Beyond aesthetics or a “green” politic, there is another reason why those favoring a strong role of big government and those who cheer for “woke” big corporations might prefer to see the suburbs committed to the dustbin of history: the suburbs represent individual aspiration and decentralized control. Cities represent a highly bureaucratized form of living with much less individual ownership. Put in simple terms, urbanites are more atomized, more controlled by central authority and have less skin in the game – perfect consumers, perfect employees.

    I am convinced that this is the chief reason that the left hates the suburbs: their hatred long predated “green” and other currently fashionable politics. The very fact that the left’s hatred for the suburbs is eternal while its claimed reasons change from decade to decade compel us to look behind those claims for something constant, and one obvious constant is the left’s lust for centralized power and hatred of all independence.

    • #3
    • August 15, 2020, at 8:04 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  4. Flicker Coolidge

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):

    Ammo.com: Beyond aesthetics or a “green” politic, there is another reason why those favoring a strong role of big government and those who cheer for “woke” big corporations might prefer to see the suburbs committed to the dustbin of history: the suburbs represent individual aspiration and decentralized control. Cities represent a highly bureaucratized form of living with much less individual ownership. Put in simple terms, urbanites are more atomized, more controlled by central authority and have less skin in the game – perfect consumers, perfect employees.

    I am convinced that this is the chief reason that the left hates the suburbs: their hatred long predated “green” and other currently fashionable politics. The very fact that the left’s hatred for the suburbs is eternal while its claimed reasons change from decade to decade compel us to look behind those claims for something constant, and one obvious constant is the left’s lust for centralized power and hatred of all independence.

    Sardines in the ocean versus sardines in a can.

    • #4
    • August 15, 2020, at 2:36 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Ammo.com Member
    Ammo.com

    Unsk (View Comment):

    Great post Ammo.

    I think it would be informative for people to think of this new HUD directive as directing AntiFa and BLM to take over every planning department in the country. If you think a riot every night in your neighborhood improves the quality of life, then this new directive is for you. It is specifically designed to bring the worst elements in society to every well functioning neighborhood to disrupt and destroy them. It is more than a War on the Suburbs, it is really a War on You and Your Family. It will increase crime exponentially all around you with the intent of either driving you from your home or to make your life a living hell.

    Never mind that is Unconstitutional as hell. That worn out Constitutional thingy has not stopped the Nihilist Dems on bit.

    Joel Kotkin has written a lot about this movement and if you want to understand more read him. The Smart Growth thing is a coercive tool to limit people residential choices to the urban core which will be controlled by BLM and AntiFA. Urban Infill housing is on average according to Joel 2 1/2 times the expense of suburban housing so affordability when you cut through all the rhetorical crap is not the goal. Full Societal change aiming to wipe out the whiter shade of the middle and upper classes is the goal. This is full on genocidal class warfare. Social Justice directives will mean that you will not be even be a second class citizen in this new urban paradise , more like third class or below with right that can be ripped up on a whim.

    A war on the suburbs is indeed synonymous with war on the underpinnings of domestic life. Home break-ins, vandalism, and street violence do not threaten the elite ruling class, but a strong sense of values that originates from any source other than them does. The family is the greatest hurtle a totalitarian government must overcome on its rise to power.

    The Constitution? I expect the argument that it’s racist and obsolete and in dire need of burning will be thrust upon us in good time. And their useful idiots will parrot every line of it they are fed.

    I’ll look into Kotkin. I suspect our writer is intimate with his work, but I, an ammo nerd, am usually too concerned with ballistic coefficients to learn as many other things as I’d like.

    • #5
    • August 15, 2020, at 2:53 PM PDT
    • Like
  6. Ammo.com Member
    Ammo.com

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):

    I am convinced that this is the chief reason that the left hates the suburbs: their hatred long predated “green” and other currently fashionable politics. The very fact that the left’s hatred for the suburbs is eternal while its claimed reasons change from decade to decade compel us to look behind those claims for something constant, and one obvious constant is the left’s lust for centralized power and hatred of all independence.

    Their tactics are always evolving, but their motives never change. “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face— forever.”

     

    • #6
    • August 15, 2020, at 2:56 PM PDT
    • Like
  7. James Lileks Contributor

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):
    I am convinced that this is the chief reason that the left hates the suburbs: their hatred long predated “green” and other currently fashionable politics. The very fact that the left’s hatred for the suburbs is eternal while its claimed reasons change from decade to decade compel us to look behind those claims for something constant, and one obvious constant is the left’s lust for centralized power and hatred of all independence.

    It has many roots. There’s the adolescent rage against the supposed phoniness of the suburbs, which stand in contrast to the Authenticity of the city. That got-damned stupid 60s song about the “tacky-tacky boxes, all the same.” As opposed to the uniformity the brownstones, I guess. 

    Suburban houses connote families, and the adolescent left is post-family, preferring a communal state where associations are freely chosen, and lack the imperatives and burdensome history of the nuclear family. Everyone is equal, which means no one can tell you to clean up your room, or make you mow the lawn. You will be truly free, like everyone else in the post-family, post-capitalist society. And the whole “mow the lawn” thing is so full of phallocentric desires to control nature, I can’t even, and don’t get me started on the chemicals. 

    Add to this the adolescent left’s romantic view of dense cities as the preferred model for enforcing a reduction of needs by diminishing your ability to fufill your erroneous desires. The left, having identified precisely the parameters of your consumption and desires, knows that you do not need a big fridge, 16 choices of deodorant, a lawn, a two-car garage, a TV set bigger than 27 inches, a bedroom for each child, and so on. Your preferences are problematic at best, and at their worst they threaten The Planet and enable Inequity. Suburbs indulge the needs and wants you should not have. 

    They do not believe they want Power and Control over the individual. They want what’s best for everyone, which brings a few down but lifts so many up. The fact that Power and Control are required to accomplish this, and they will be the ones wielding it, is a natural consequence of doing the virtuous things.

    Eggs, omelettes, and all that. 

    • #7
    • August 15, 2020, at 11:01 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Eridemus Coolidge

    I worked in the 80’s as a site design consultant to an architect who submitted “Section 8” (apartment) projects all over the state and then I took another full time job in the early 90’s and lost track of it, assuming he continued in that pattern. But sometime later I read that the big heyday of that approach had phased out in the mid-nineties. Currently there is a “Hope” program that seems to foster much higher quality design but shows up as only one or two examples per city. Some terms seem to have floated around either with one of these eras or maybe alongside…the buzz word of having “scattered site” projects. My state didn’t have to dynamite any ghastly gigantic depressing towers of units but a few of the older “Section 8” gave way to some “Hope” replacements. I think the population served eventually got vouchers to go wherever landlords would take them, but there are long waiting lists and some landlords don’t think it’s worth the guaranteed income when considering the physical damage often done to private properties by the occupants.

    Anyway I didn’t have to attend the small town zoning hearings for the old Section 8 but staff told me that towns fought hard to keep it out. If they were somehow judged to be low on some metric, the government forced it. I never heard how, but withholding other funds was probably the key. And the budget allowances did make for bare housing, although not slums per se. It was the occupants who were dreaded, and not because of race but behavior. My cousin in Idaho on a private cul de sac told me in recent years how one home had program tenants and the whole area was affected by the trashy way it was kept and the loud behavior, fighting, etc. so breathed a sigh of relief when they left. Maybe that is the final version of “scattered site” but helps me get to my point: The scattered smaller acreage and lower units projects did tuck well into parcels without a blaring “combat zone” look to them, but the theory that they would help the residents somehow pick up the middle-class values around them by osmosis was never tested or reported on, and seems unlikely. People just don’t chum up within projects all that much, and even less with single family or higher rent populations outside. All you might get is kids meeting other kids at school bus stops and some poorer kids getting into better schools. So yeah intrusions into suburbs are hardly going to be welcome by people sinking years of their lives into their real estate, however modest. It would take something fierce to really break it apart and would have to be very stealth until too late to reverse.

    • #8
    • August 16, 2020, at 10:57 AM PDT
    • Like
    • This comment has been edited.
  9. Headedwest Coolidge

    Eridemus (View Comment):

    The scattered smaller acreage and lower units projects did tuck well into parcels without a blaring “combat zone” look to them, but the theory that they would help the residents somehow pick up the middle-class values around them by osmosis was never tested or reported on, and seems unlikely.

    Cargo cult thinking at its worst. 

    • #9
    • August 16, 2020, at 11:11 AM PDT
    • Like
  10. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul StinchfieldJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    That got-damned stupid 60s song about the “tacky-tacky boxes, all the same.” As opposed to the uniformity the brownstones, I guess. 

    The song was written by a communist who clearly preferred the gray concrete prison look of Soviet mass housing.

    James: Are you interested in envelopes, stationary and matchbook covers, mostly from Minnesota area businesses in the 1940’s and 50’s? If so, message me.

    • #10
    • August 16, 2020, at 11:35 AM PDT
    • Like
  11. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul StinchfieldJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Eridemus (View Comment):
    I think the population served eventually got vouchers to go wherever landlords would take them, but there are long waiting lists and some landlords don’t think it’s worth the guaranteed income when considering the physical damage often done to private properties by the occupants.

    Landlords also dislike the social damage: it drives away good tenants, it makes life unpleasant and stressful for the landlords and custodians, and it means increased risk of assault and even murder.

    So yeah intrusions into suburbs are hardly going to be welcome by people sinking years of their lives into their real estate, however modest.

    I have heard comments like that from people whose very modest suburban homes had lost value because of such social deterioration: they feared the crime, and hated the disorder and incivility, but they could not afford to move and if they did move they would end up far from the people they had known most of their lives.

    • #11
    • August 16, 2020, at 11:44 AM PDT
    • Like
    • This comment has been edited.