The Obama administration’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule was arguably its most radical attempt to “fundamentally transform” the United States. As I wrote at the time, Obama’s AFFH gives the federal government “a lever to re-engineer nearly every American neighborhood — imposing a preferred racial and ethnic composition, densifying housing, transportation, and business development in suburb and city alike, and weakening or casting aside the authority of local governments over core responsibilities, from zoning to transportation to education.” Another way of looking at Obama’s AFFH is to see it as a way of allowing big cities to effectively annex their surrounding suburbs — siphoning off suburban tax revenue and controlling suburban planning as well.
While Ben Carson’s HUD is now proposing a revision of Obama’s AFFH that peels back some of the rule’s most egregious overreach, the core of Obama’s AFFH remains intact. Although it is disguised by vague bureaucratic language, Carson’s version of AFFH still gives the feds the power to control local zoning decisions.
As policy, this is folly. As politics, it is flat-out malpractice. Carson’s version of AFFH will alienate the suburbs, now the crucial swing vote in federal elections. If a Republican administration entrenches “AFFH lite”, it will only legitimate the next Democratic administration’s attempts to restore an Obama-style AFFH. Once Republicans accept the principle that it is the business of the feds to tell local governments how to zone and plan, the next Democratic president will push federal control to the max.