Biden Promises to Use Big Stick of Federal Money to Abolish Suburbs

August 27, 2020 Updated: August 27, 2020

News Analysis

If voters elect Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to the nation’s highest office in November, those who live in America’s suburbs could be in for a rude awakening early in 2021.

Within the Biden campaign website’s description of the former vice president’s housing policy positions and promises is this statement on “eliminating local and state housing regulations that perpetuate discrimination” in the suburbs of America’s great cities:

“Exclusionary zoning has for decades been strategically used to keep people of color and low-income families out of certain communities. As President, Biden will enact legislation requiring any state receiving federal dollars through the Community Development Block Grants or Surface Transportation Block Grants to develop a strategy for inclusionary zoning, as proposed in the HOME Act of 2019 by House Majority Whip [James] Clyburn [D-S.C.] and Sen. Cory Booker [D-N.J.].

“Biden will also invest $300 million in Local Housing Policy Grants to give states and localities the technical assistance and planning support they need to eliminate exclusionary zoning policies and other local regulations that contribute to sprawl.”

The Biden promises would use the big stick of withholding federal funds from states that refuse to repeal zoning regulations, with special emphasis on ending single-family housing.

If implemented as promised, the Biden housing plan would revive and expand President Barack Obama’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation recently repealed by President Donald Trump and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson.

Trump and Carson recognized AFFH would end local zoning and give federal bureaucrats at HUD unprecedented power to decide where and how every new home, church, and business in America would be built.

Behind the concerns about housing discrimination and suburban sprawl is a powerful regulatory tool for reviving the high-density, urban-style development policies of AFFH, Stanley Kurtz, Ethics and Public Policy Center senior fellow, told The Epoch Times on Aug. 27.

“The main danger is that if Biden is elected, he will reinstate AFFH, which he has promised to do, and he’s promised to do even more than that,” Kurtz said.

“Biden will reconstitute AFFH, and not only that, but add additional policies to push the same things AFFH was pushing but in ways that are even harder to avoid.”

A spokesman for the Biden campaign didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment from The Epoch Times.

A recently published analysis by Chase Martin, a visiting fellow at the Florida-based Opportunity Solutions Project (OSP), notes that the Biden plan adds to AFFH by taking advantage of the desperate financial straits many states face, due to increasing Medicaid costs.

“In 2000, Medicaid spending consumed just under 20 percent of state budgets nationwide. Unfortunately, those welfare expenditures are now consuming roughly 30 percent of state budget expenses nationally and have reached nearly 40 percent in some states, notably Pennsylvania and Ohio,” Martin wrote in the OSP report.

Aggressive implementation of the Biden plan could wreak social and economic havoc in heavily suburbanized Pennsylvania and Ohio, two of the key battlegrounds in the 2020 presidential election.

But it isn’t just Pennsylvania and Ohio, as more than 4.2 million miles of infrastructure roads are maintained by state governments nationwide, and funding for repairs and new construction is increasingly threatened by rising Medicaid costs. Road maintenance alone represents 150,000 jobs nationwide, according to Martin.

“Ultimately, under Biden’s rezoning policy, states already handcuffed by inflating Medicaid costs would be left with the difficult choice between losing billions of dollars in federal funds and tearing their suburbs apart,” according to Martin.

Using federal highway funds, as Biden proposes, to force national policies on state and local governments was rarely used until President Richard Nixon utilized it to create the 55-mph national speed limit during the 1974 gasoline crisis.

The same tactic was used by a year later to impose universal mandatory use of motorcycle helmets and by President Ronald Reagan to raise the national drinking age to 21 in 1984.

Despite widespread public disobedience, it wasn’t until 20 years later that the “double nickel” and the helmet laws were repealed, in 1995, as part of the “Contract with America” revolution led by then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

“Think about this, once they make changes, and if the Democrats sweep Congress, I believe they will do it legislatively.” Kurtz said. “If that happens, well, they’re going to start building things right away. Twenty years later, you can change the speed limit and it’s changed, but you’re not going to tear down those buildings,” Kurtz said.

Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc