The most obvious new element of the president’s regionalist policy initiative is the July 19 publication of a Department of Housing and Urban Development regulation broadening the obligation of recipients of federal aid to “affirmatively further fair housing.” The apparent purpose of this rule change is to force suburban neighborhoods with no record of housing discrimination to build more public housing targeted to ethnic and racial minorities. Several administration critics noticed the change and challenged it, while the mainstream press has simply declined to cover the story…
The new HUD rule is really about changing the way Americans live. It is part of a broader suite of initiatives designed to block suburban development, press Americans into hyper-dense cities, and force us out of our cars. Government-mandated ethnic and racial diversification plays a role in this scheme, yet the broader goal is forced “economic integration.” The ultimate vision is to make all neighborhoods more or less alike, turning traditional cities into ultra-dense Manhattans, while making suburbs look more like cities do now. In this centrally-planned utopia, steadily increasing numbers will live cheek-by-jowl in “stack and pack” high-rises close to public transportation, while automobiles fall into relative disuse. To understand how HUD’s new rule will help enact this vision, we need to turn to a less-well-known example of the Obama administration’s regionalist interventionism.
In response to my recent piece on Paul Krugman’s Moronic Take on Sprawl and Upward Social Mobility I was challenged on characterising the left’s attitude towards the suburbs as hatred. Part of my response was to refer to the San Francisco Bay Area’s initiative on the subject, which Kurtz’ article goes into more detail about, but that wasn’t enough.
Or was it? Although vitriol is the usual way of measuring hatred, it isn’t the only one. I prefer to gauge people’s attitudes by their actions. If people are persistent in their actions, they most be motivated: the more the persistence, the more the motivation. Whether they opt to make a big public show of their commitment or whether they do so quietly depends upon many factors.
I think that hatred is a fair characterisation of the left’s attitudes towards suburbia. The original animus dates to the 1960’s, when suburbia was the home of the “repressed” and “bourgeois” attitudes they were revolting against. But there’s more. Suburbia is the object for the left’s pushback for two more reasons:
- Environmental: low-density development takes up more land, requires more energy to run the utilities and commute, and thus is seen to be hard on the environment in many ways.
- It’s where most of the Republicans live (that’s reason enough for most leftists), the influx of immigrants into the suburbs notwithstanding.
So the Obama regime does what it can to promote pushing people into the fifty square metre apartment (or smaller) and making them straphangers on the tube. Such a policy will disincentivise upward social mobility. A big reason Americans work hard to get ahead is to land themselves in suburbia, with its spaciousness and nice neighbourhoods. By levelling the housing stock in this way, neither will be out there and Americans will, to use an expression I’ve picked up living in the same town the President visited today, lay out. (Compounding the problem is the fact that most of these policies tend to make housing expensive, which puts it out of reach for ordinary folk).
If that’s what they want to do, then all this talk about helping the middle class–and we heard a lot about this from Obama today–is a lot of rubbish, in an American context.
Kurtz talks about “Manhattanising” the country, but when I think of the kind of development the current regime would like to promote, my thoughts take me back to another great city, old Moscow…