Democrat Undecided If He Wants More Affordable Housing In His Wealthy District

Kerry Picket Political Reporter
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WASHINGTON — A suburban New York Democratic congressman whose district is in the eye of the storm of a nationwide affordable housing debate will not say if he wants more low income facilities in his home county.

Westchester County and the Obama administration are in the midst of an ongoing battle over the amount of affordable housing the locality should build. Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino has been fighting with the Justice Department following a legal settlement his predecessor agreed to. The settlement requires the county to build or attain 750 units of affordable housing in 31 of its richest and statistically whitest neighborhoods.

New York Rep. [crscore]Eliot Engel[/crscore], whose district encompasses the wealthy neighborhoods of Westchester County, hesitated before he said he could not say if Westchester should build more Section 8 housing.

“I can’t answer yes or no, but I’m for affordable housing,” Engel told the Daily Caller last week. “I think Westchester County, like every county has to abide by the decisions of the courts. It’s not a matter of what I want. It’s a matter of what the courts say.”

Engel added, “I think that the case was adjudicated and I think that you have to follow the ruling of the court. What I think is not important.”

In 2015, Housing and Urban Development Sec. Julian Castro put forth a regulation known as — “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” (AFFH). This rule urges every suburban county that accepts federal grant money to alter their local zoning laws to build more affordable housing.

Sec. Castro took the next step and threatened lawsuits on all landlords who resisted taking in any Section 8 tenants including those with criminal records. A similar program in Dallas happened several years ago, the Post noted, and was blamed for the spike in violent crime to wealthy neighborhoods.

The Housing Secretary is in the midst of increasing Section 8 affordable housing vouchers for poor urban residents in areas like New York City to move to places like Westchester County via “mobility counselors,” the New York Post reported.

Republicans on Capitol Hill are preparing to hit back at Castro’s new regulations that would push urban poor into high priced suburban areas. The Daily Caller learned that GOP members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation Housing and Urban Development are ready to respond to Castro’s regulations on Tuesday.

Additionally, Arizona Republican Rep. [crscore]Paul Gosar[/crscore] submitted a language request to the House Appropriations Committee that would stop any funds from being used to carry out the AFFH rule. According to Gosar’s spokesman Steve Smith, the congressman’s office is determined to “use every tool available to us in order to scrap this overreaching executive action.”

“The new AFFH regulation is Obama’s latest attempt to allow Washington bureaucrats to dictate the makeup of your neighborhood. The House has resoundingly rejected this utopian community take-over multiple times. This draconian rule has nothing to do with fair housing, as housing discrimination based on race has been illegal for more than 40 years. It’s about control, plain and simple,” Gosar said in a statement.

He added, “I believe that people should be able to live where they want, that there should be less government involvement in the everyday lives of the American people, and that the federal government should stop arbitrarily punishing our communities through nonsensical new regulations. My message to President Obama is clear: the House has our own weapon called the ‘power of the purse’ and my colleagues and I plan to use it to defund this new Washington mandate.”

In the upper chamber, Utah Republican Sen. [crscore]Mike Lee[/crscore] urged his colleagues to support an adopted amendment to this year’s Transportation and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill. The measure would ban HUD officials from spending any money to implement the new rule.

“HUD has this power because far too many communities have become accustomed to relying on the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which gives federal dollars to local communities for projects designed to reduce poverty and housing segregation,” Lee said in a statement.

He went further to say, “The so-called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule would only continue CDBG’s well-established track record of failure. Instead of helping all American families by lowering housing costs, the AFFH rule would only add yet another layer of bureaucratic red tape on developers, making it less likely – not more – that they will find it worthwhile to build more housing units.

Going forward, Castro is now putting the final touches on a rule called the “Small-Area Fair Market Rents” (SAFMR). This regulation goes into effect in October and will set voucher rent limits by zip code as opposed to metro area, because the present set up produces essentially small payments.

HUD would double the standard subsidy for a Section 8 tenant looking to move to a higher priced zip code while reducing the subsidy of those who choose to stay in low income urban areas, which would result in forcibly pushing out Section 8 city tenants into the suburbs via social engineering.

“We want to use our housing-choice vouchers to ensure that we don’t have a concentration of poverty and the aggregation of racial minorities in one part of town, the poor part of town,” Castro reportedly said.

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