WASHINGTON — A proposed amendment aimed at defunding a controversial Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulation related to Section 8 Housing was tabled in the upper chamber Thursday.
Utah Sen. [crscore]Mike Lee[/crscore] proposed an amendment to the Senate Transportation and HUD appropriations bill that would have defunded a regulation stopping the implementation of the HUD regulation known as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH).
The HUD rule, put forth by Housing Secretary Julian Castro last year, mandates that $3 billion of annual community development block grants on1,200 recipient cities and counties to rezone neighborhoods along income and racial specifications.
Lee said in his floor speech on his amendment Wednesday that AFFH ordered cities and towns nationwide are required to audit their local housing policies, under monitoring by federal HUD regulators, “who may have never have lived anywhere near there.”
“If any aspect of a community’s housing and demographic patterns fails to meet HUD bureaucrats’ expansive definition of ‘fair housing,’ the local government must submit a plan to reorganize the community’s housing practices according to the preferences and priorities of the bureaucrats,” said Lee
“Critics of AFFH often say – as I have said – that this rule turns HUD into a National Zoning Board with the power to unilaterally rewrite local zoning laws and land-use regulations in every city and town in America, ” he added, noting that it’s not exactly how the rule works and it’s why he believes that Collins amendment would not stop the implementation of AFFH.
“Under the new rule, HUD doesn’t replace local Public Housing Authorities – it conscripts them into its service,” said Lee.
However, Lee’s amendment to defund AFFH was tabled by a vote of 60 to 37. Republicans opposed to Lee’s provision offered an alternative through an amendment proposed by Maine Republican Sen. [crscore]Susan Collins[/crscore], which some conservative outlets derided as a toothless attempt to cover for Republicans who voted to table Lee’s amendment.
Collins defended her amendment Thursday on the floor saying that, “There has been concern that some have brought up that a new rule that was issued last year by the department would some how allow HUD to be the national zoning authority for every neighborhood in our country.”
“Well, I do not believe that that is the correct interpretation of the fair housing regulation that HUD has promulgated. This amendment-the Collins, [crscore]Jack Reed[/crscore], Cochran amendment ensures that HUD cannot do that. It eliminated that possibility and ensures that communities will continue to make their own decisions to address these federal requirements,” she added.
Georgia Republican Sen. [crscore]Johnny Isakson[/crscore] voted to table the amendment. He told TheDC, “I thought the bill was a good bill without being amended by the Lee amendment, so I voted for it that way.”
Isakson explained, “All regulations can be abused if the agency does it. They can take it and extrapolate things they shouldn’t be doing. You know, in Atlanta we’ve done some positive things with HUD — expand access to housing by inviting the private sector through positive government moves. That’s the way I hope it will happen.”
When asked about similar section 8 housing regulations that were found to be deleterious towards the city of Dallas and the current fight Westchester County, NY is engaged in with the Justice Department over section 8 housing regulations, Isakson only replied, “You can find a reason to not to do or to do everything,” later responding to concern on plunging property values resulting from section 8 Housing by saying, “I’m sure that’s probably true in certain cases.”
Rick Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government and long time advocate for the Lee amendment criticized members for their vote to table the measure, saying, “Americans wonder what is going wrong with the system in Washington, D.C. where Senators seem more interested in playing paddy cake with President Obama and his radical agenda rather than standing up and fighting it.”
Manning continued, “Unfortunately, too many of [their] Republican colleagues were more afraid of the race hustlers who seek to put low income high rise apartments into middle class neighborhoods, and the Lee amendment failed.”
Although Lee’s amendment failed a similar amendment in the House appropriations bill was introduced in committee this week by Arizona Republican [crscore]Paul Gosar[/crscore].