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Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH)

This concise story details what can happen to a city that particpates in HUD grants program.  Plano has received approxiamtely six million dollars in housing related grants over the last four years.  

  ​Stanley Kurtz:

What state is Dubuque in?  If you answered Chicago, you are correct.  Chicago's no state, you say?  Don't be so 18th century--so "constitutional."  Dubuque is in Chicago, which is now a kind of state.  Or to put it differently, the Obama administration is in the process of replacing our entire system of government--made up of nested local, state, and national, levels--with a regional framework.  (I add---just as Dubuque is now in the Chicago region, Plano is in the Dallas region.  Log onto the Plano website--Plano Tomorrow to see this)  Kurtz continues--In Obama's new dispensation, suburbs, small towns, and modest-sized cities like Dubuque will be turned into subordinate satellites of regional mega-cities like Chicago, regardless of which state these local governments are formally a part of.  Welcome to the world of "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing" (AFFH), President Obama's transformative new regulation.  How will AFFH work?  The City of Dubuque gives us one of our best and most frightening previews yet.  

An account of Dubuque as a forerunner of a post-AFFH world comes to us courtesy of a stunning report by Deborah Thorton, a policy analyst for Iowa's Public Interest Institute.  The report tells the story of how Dubuque was pressured to cede large swathes of its governing authority to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has forced the city to direct its limited low-income "Section 8" housing resources, nnot to its own needy citizens, but to voucher-holders from Chicago.  Like any city, Dubuque's first obligation is to see to the needs of the citizens who already live there, vote, and pay taxes.  Or so it was in pre-AFFH America.    Our story begins about eight years ago.  Just as Dubuque was reeling from the effects of the 2008 recession and dealing with an uptick in its own low-income housing needs, the city was hit wit a wave of "Section 8" low-income housing voucher applicatants from Chicago.  A few years earlier, Chicago had systematically demolished its most drug-and crime-ridden high-rise public housing facilities, using grants from HUD.  Yet through its own mismanagement, Chicago had failed to properly replace its now depleted low-income housing stock, leaving many Chicago residents looking to use their Section 8 vouchers elsewhere.  With many more Section 8 applicants than it could house, Dubuque instituted a low-income housing point system granting preference to Dubuque residents, county residents, state residents, and out-of stated residents, in that order.  Although HUD's rules ostensibly allow localities to craft their own housing priorities, Dubuque's point system was deemed unacceptable by HUD.  The feds undertook a review of Dubuque's housing policy that efectively treated the city as a part of greater Chiacgo.  By treating Dubuque and Chicago as part of the same "region," HUD was able to declare Dubuque's low-income housing point system discriminatory since the vast majority of Section 8 applicants from Chicago were African-American.  Dubuque's preferences for citizens of its own cjty, county, and state were deemed racist.  HUD insisted that Dubuque would have to admit housing applicants in conformity with the demographics of the larger (HUD-defined) region.  Somehow Dubuque had become a satellite of Chicago.  

Having previously accepted HUD funding through the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program, as well as HUD's Community Development Block Grant program, Dubuque was formally obligated to "affirmatively further fair housing" in whatever way HUD defined that obligation.  Refusal to submit to HUD's dictates would have led to the withdrawal of federal funding, a lawsuit for supposed discrimination, or both.  The cowed elected officials of Dubuque accordingly signed a "voluntary" (in truth, forced) consent agreement that effectively ceded control of the city's housing policy to HUD for at least five years.  (My Note: This is what has occurred in Plano.)

Under HUD's detailed oversight, Dubuque must now actively recruit Section 8 voucher holders from the Chicago area.  In fact, as of January 2015, the percentage of African-American voucher users in Dubuque was larger than the percentage of African-Americans living in Chicago.  The problem is very few of these new public housing residents have ever lives or paid taxes in Dubuque, or even Iowa.  The feds have essentially commandeered Dubuque to solve Chicago's public housing shortage.  HUD's diktat also imposes a huge administrative burden on Dubuque, with monthly, quarterly, annual, and five year plans to be filed and followed up on.  (Yes, a "five year plan."  Having "voluntarily" consented to a federal takeover, Dubuque is now obligated to follow  HUD's every command for at least five years.  

Thorton rightly notes that Dubuque is a template for the coming implementation of AFFH.  The rule will make it easy for HUD to effectively annex other Iowa river-towns- like Clinton, Davenport, and Burlington---to greater Chicago.  The same pattern will play out nationally under AFFH, Thorton warns.  (My note---1250 cities have been targeted by HUD; included among these is several cities in Collin County---Frisco, Allen, McKinney, and Plano.  These cities have participated in the Community Development Block Grant program.  Plano has been awarded in excess of 5 million dollars over the last four years.)

In a post- AFFH world, every region of he United States will be compelled "to meet nationally determined standards for the management and makeup of every aspect" of local life, says Thornton.  AFFH will also force local communities into regional consortia directed by what Thornton calls "unelected governing boards who do not represent the voters."  Those electorally unaccountable regional commissions, she continues, "will set targets for the desired percentage of 'types' of people to live in each area of the region."  Cities, and businesses, "buried under mounds of paperwork," will have no choice but to submit.  

How can a housing rule control every aspect of local life?  Its far easier than you might imagine.  AFFH redefined "fair housing" to include proximity to transportation, jobs, and schools.  This will effectively extend the power that HUD now exercises over Dubuque's housing policy to nearly every other aspect of local development and planning.  Under AFFH, once a town takes HUDmoney, it effectively loses control not only over housing but schools, zoning, transportation, the environment, and business location.  As Thorton concludes, "If you take their money, you play by their rules."  

Thorton rightly warns against regional consortia provided for in AFFH.  Once HUD pressures a municipality into such a regional governing entity, local control is lost.  All the feds had to do was classify Dubuque as part of greater Chicago, then judge the City's housing demographics as out-of-balance with reference to the racial and ethnic make-up of the region as a whole.  At that point, a trumped-up charge of racism and threats to withdraw funding or file a lawsuit "logically" followed.   AFFH makes this trick particularly easy to pull off because the rule instructs all localities in receipt of federal grants to analyze their housing practices with reference to "regional data" provided by HUD.  By forcing every town, small city, or suburb that takes HUD money to evaluate the "fairness" of its demographic mix with reference to the demographics of the nearest mega-city, HUD can effectively institure regional government in America by fiat.   ( My note: As Dubuque is to Chiago, Plano, Frisco, Allen, and McKinney is to Dallas---the HUD declared "Region.")  

In its story of the announcement of AFFH, The New York Times quoted Secretary Julian Castro downplaying HUD'S intended enforcement efforts.  Castro portrays the cutoff of federal funds as a last resort that he barely intends to use, if at all.  Dubuque makes a mockery of Castro's claim, unless you credit the absurd pretence that the Dubuque's compliance agreement was in fact voluntary, rather than the response of a financially-strapped town to threats of federal defunding and /or lawsuits--threats levied on the basis of a thoroughly contrived "regionalist" premise.  When it comes to housing, Secretary Castro is now forcibly controlling virtually every move Dubuque makes.  

Everything Kurtz refers to is taking place in Plano.  Log on to the City website and you will see the term "Region" in the Plano Tomorrrow Plan.  We are now part of the Dallas Region.