President Joe Biden's "infrastructure" proposal says that money granted to towns and counties will come with a condition: eliminating "prohibitions on multifamily housing" and zoning restrictions such as "minimum lot sizes." This proposal, it has been said, amounts to "abolishing the suburbs" by making them more like cities. (Image source: iStock)
Interview with Luke Rosiak, an investigative reporter with The Daily Wire. He warns of a little-noticed provision in President Joe Biden's infrastructure proposal that could have major consequences for how people will be forced to live — and for a political power-grab in the country.
Gatestone Institute: President Joe Biden's "infrastructure" proposal says that money granted to towns and counties will come with a condition: eliminating "prohibitions on multifamily housing" and zoning restrictions such as "minimum lot sizes." This proposal, it has been said, amounts to "abolishing the suburbs" by making them more like cities.
Rosiak: Yes. Apartment buildings as well as duplexes — essentially carving up suburban homes into multiple apartment units — could be built in the middle of any suburban neighborhood, and there is nothing you could do to stop it. A housing project could be built next door to your home. One-acre lots could be subdivided to cram in as many houses as possible. If you bought into a neighborhood of one-acre lots and enjoy a bit of privacy, your neighbor could soon be able to sell his acre to a real estate developer who could put eight buildings on it.
GI: What is the purpose of this?
Rosiak: As USA Today put it: "A house with a white picket fence and a big backyard for a Fourth of July barbecue may be a staple of the American dream, but experts and local politicians say multifamily zoning is key to combating climate change, racial injustice, and the nation's growing affordable housing crisis." As part of the administration's desired $2.3 billion infrastructure plan, "cities would allow... apartment buildings with fewer than six units to be built next to a traditional house...."
Part of the "purpose" is the claim that we need to spread out poverty to make things more "equitable." They claim that cities are undesirable places to live because they are crowded, hot, and lack nature, so it is unfair that people have to live there. Ironically, their solution seems to be to make more of them by cutting down trees in the suburbs and putting up tall buildings. They also claim it will help the environment because if Americans live more densely, they are more likely to take mass transit and use fewer cars.
GI: Is this what Americans want? More poverty and increased population density in their suburbs?
Rosiak: Plenty of Americans love the big-city lifestyle; but they are already living in cities. Many other Americans have chosen big backyards for their kids to play in and to have some privacy. If you moved into a neighborhood based on certain expectations – whether it was one house on each quarter-acre, half-acre, or acre – you likely do not want that thrown out the window. With rising crime rates and remote work, people's preferences have actually been shifting to moving even further out in the country, to have even more space than before.
Worse, local governments presumably know what is best for their communities. That is why communities have local governments rather than a federal government deciding everything for everyone. If residents desired different zoning, their officials would have already made those changes on their own. This tells you that the move will most likely be horrifically unpopular among voters of both parties. That is probably why it is being hidden within a massive bill and not talked about.
The federal government has no power to force this change, but the president has floated withholding federal money that towns rely on for things like roads unless the towns comply.
President Biden's campaign platform called to "Eliminate local and state housing regulations that perpetuate discrimination" through a bill called the HOME Act. It would make "surface transportation funding and community development block grants contingent on" eliminating policies such as "ordinances that ban apartment buildings from certain residential areas or set a minimum lot size for a single-family home.'" What town can afford to lose all federal transportation dollars — funded with taxes that they pay?
Since the infrastructure bill is sending billions of dollars to local governments, the administration appears to be using it for the same purpose, saying that local governments will not be eligible for some of this money unless they make zoning changes. Basically, it is not far from extortion.
GI: So the administration wants to turn the suburbs into cities? Why would a political party want to do that?
Rosiak: Most cities, and most low-income people, vote for Democrats. For politicians, this means that if you can make the countryside into cities, in 10 years, everyone will be voting for only one party. In fact, one of the best predictors of how a person will vote is population density. If you live on an acre or more, you are probably a Republican, and if you live in a high-density area, there is a good chance you are a Democrat.
Politically, control of America comes down to the suburbs. Right now, they are the only areas that are "purple." If you can move residents of the suburbs to the "left" by 10 points by adding high-density housing, then you have secured permanent political control.
Many voters will be furious, but to the politicians, that will not matter: the new residents are sure to give one party the majority it wants. That is what the infrastructure bill conditions are really about: securing a one-party control of government. Who's in charge of your county or town is incredibly important: it determines criminal justice policy, school boards, and spending. The population shift could also tip congressional seats and impact the electoral college. And of course, added high-density housing could also come with traffic, never-ending construction, crime, and gangs.
GI: Is this infrastructure bill a done deal?
Rosiak: It is still in the negotiations stage, and details have so far been essentially secret. But the current administration has repeatedly said it intends to include zoning provisions along these lines, and other politicians have not given any indication that they understand the significance of what is being done or that they intend to fight it.
If a bill passes with these strings attached, suburbs are likely to go the way of Loudoun County, Virginia. Loudoun was a semi-rural community until a few years ago, when its local representatives permitted the construction of thousands of townhouses. The first thing the new residents did was to vote those representatives out and their representatives in. Now Loudoun County is more like San Francisco on the Potomac.
Many counties will find it hard to resist the temptation to take the cash. But in the long-term they are saddling themselves with a huge influx of poverty whose financial effects will outweigh any grants. Of course, they will also completely change the aesthetics and culture of the neighborhood — and irrevocably alter its political makeup.
The infrastructure provisions are not the only way the current administration is methodically seeking to increase the population density and poverty rate of suburbs. In June, the president signed an executive order affecting Department of Housing and Urban Development money, "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing," with similar goals.