Carson must return HUD to its mission

HUD has steadily taken away control from local planning departments. The latest example is the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which would bury cities in paperwork and push them to alter zoning codes and build high-density low income housing to serve so-called underrepresented groups.

Michigan gets another friend in the Trump cabinet with the nomination of Dr. Ben Carson as secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The priority for the neurosurgeon must be extracting the federal agency from local planning departments.

Carson grew up in Detroit and cites his experience living in the city’s public housing projects for spurring his interest in running HUD.

Although little in his background other than that would seem to qualify him for helping set housing policy, he has been one of President-elect Donald Trump’s staunchest loyalists since abandoning his own quest for the presidency.

What Carson needs to know about HUD is that the agency has strayed far from its original mission of urban redevelopment and helping Americans find adequate shelter.

HUD today sees its role as using the leverage of federal funds to force local communities to embrace its vision of a Utopian society created by forcing people of different incomes, races and ethnicities to live together.

That drive accelerated under the Obama administration, which is pushing through the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, perhaps the most intrusive measure of the Obama presidency. Public comment on the rule was last month, and Republicans dropped an attempt to kill it in the budget bill. It is among the many regulations President Obama hopes to put in place before he leaves office.

AFFH would force any community that accepts HUD dollars to change its zoning codes and build high-density low income housing to serve so-called underrepresented groups.

It is a broad rewriting of the Fair Housing Act, and a distortion of its intent.

The rule puts the core principle of local control at risk. Critics claim it opens the door to federal interference in such routine local decisions as the siting of schools and the mapping of transportation routes. Compliance will bury communities in paperwork.

Local officials will have to fill out the AFFH assessment tool, designed to determine whether minorities are living too closely together and too far away from the best schools, shopping, transportation, etc.

If so, towns will be forced to change zoning regulations and build more low-income housing close to those amenities. If not enough underrepresented residents live in a community, by HUD’s estimate, the agency could force aggressive steps to attract them.

It’s social engineering at its worse. And it is incredibly naive in its faith in the government to create a more harmonious society by forcing people to live together.

What it will do is cede more local decision-making to Washington while cities and towns will be left to deal with the costs and headaches.

This is what Ben Carson will find, if he’s confirmed, when he takes over HUD. His priority should be scrapping AFFH and other overly intrusive regulations and focus the agency on helping cities rebuild themselves by their own blueprint and assuring all Americans can find safe and affordable housing, without dictating the address.

— THE DETROIT NEWS