WESTCHESTER, New York — Donald Trump told Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino Tuesday he will discontinue the Housing and Urban Development regulation that allows the federal government to dictate local and state zoning laws.
Following a press conference Trump gave in Briarcliff Manor to reporters announcing he would give a major speech next week, Astorino met with the presumptive GOP nominee and discussed the battle he is engaged in with the Justice Department and HUD over an affordable housing settlement made in 2009 between Astorino’s predecessor and a New York based five person non profit, which put the county on the hook for 750 units of affordable housing.
Astorino argues the federal government now wants more than what the county originally agreed to in the settlement and can actually afford. In 2015, HUD Sec. Julian Castro established a rule, known as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH).
“[Trump] is aware of it and he understands it and he absolutely opposes what the Obama administration is trying to do and what Hillary would perpetuate. It’s urbanizing the suburbs and it’s taking away the rights of local communities through their own elected officials to determine how their community is made up,” Astorino told The Daily Caller. “And that’s exactly what the Obama administration is doing through the powers of the federal government. It would not continue under the [Trump] administration.”
The AFFH rule mandates $3 billion of annual community development block grants on 1,200 recipient cities and counties to rezone neighborhoods along income and racial stipulations, essentially forcing affordable housing into middle income and upper middle-income suburban neighborhoods.
Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee attempted to defund the regulation on May 19 in a Senate appropriations bill last month, but all upper chamber Democrats and 13 Republicans voted to table his amendment.
“I found that very disappointing, because this amendment is something every Republican should be able to support. Every Republican purports to stand behind basic principles of local governance and federalism,” Lee told WBAL’s Derek Hunter last month.
“I was shocked when a dozen or so of my Republican colleagues voted against this amendment and therefore in favor of this AFFH rule, which is almost inevitably going to create a national housing authority — a national zoning board, if you will and it’s wrong,” the senator added.
TheDC followed up with a handful of Republicans who voted to table Lee’s amendment almost a week after the vote.
Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran had long “turned the page” regarding his vote on the amendment five days after the vote happened, calling it “past history,” when TheDC asked him why he voted to table Lee’s amendment. When pressed further, Cochran told TheDC he could not recall why he voted the way he did.
North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, another member who voted to table Lee’s amendment, told TheDC he preferred Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins’ amendment, which Lee said “didn’t do anything.”
“I liked what Senator Collins said in terms of prohibiting the federal authorities from getting into zoning decisions made by state and local governments,” Tillis said.
When asked how effective Collins amendment really was, since it just affirmed a federal law already in place, Tillis replied, “I think it’s reaffirming that in this administration it’s never useless to reaffirm what the law is because they have the tendency not to follow it, but to go a little bit loose on it.”
He added, “I think there are pieces to the Lee amendment that make sense we just got to find the right vehicle to get it on. This is not the right one.”
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told TheDC he voted to table the Lee amendment because it would have torpedoed the entire appropriations bill all together. However, Graham says he wants to work with Lee on his amendment.
“That’s probably something we should probably have a hearing on and try to establish if Mike’s solution is what we need to do — maybe so in another proposal,” he said. “I’ve talked to Mike about this, and I actually want to talk with him about maybe a way to modify it. I think he’s on to something, I just want to sit down with him and redraft this thing and see if we can maybe do it somewhere else.”