Democrats from Biden to Hochul are targeting suburban homeowners
by Betsy McCaughey
If you’ve worked hard to afford a suburban house with a patch of lawn where your kids can play, you’re under attack.
The Biden administration and Democrats in New York, Connecticut, and other states are warring on local zoning laws to build high-rise apartment buildings with “affordable” units in tree-lined, single-family neighborhoods. All in the name of equity, meaning everyone can live in a tranquil suburb, whether they’ve earned the money to pay for it or not.
The Biden administration announced Jan. 19 it will require all towns across America to submit “equity plans” showing how they will make it possible for low-income people to live there by providing affordable housing, transportation, and other resources.
Towns that don’t meet the cookie-cutter requirement for economic diversity will lose federal funding.
No one’s denying there’s a housing shortage. In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul is pushing some reasonable ideas such as allowing mother-in-law apartments and relaxing environmental restrictions on a residential building.
But Hochul’s biggest proposal, the Housing Compact, is another misguided attack on local control and single-family zoning. It would compel each town and village in the New York City metro area to increase its housing stock to meet a uniform, state-imposed target and rezone for high-density housing — apartment buildings — within a half-mile of every Metropolitan Transportation Authority train stop.
Say goodbye to quaint downtowns lined with two-story buildings and older houses.
If a town fails to meet state targets, the compact will allow developers to build big in defiance of local zoning boards in almost all cases.
Hochul is seeking legislative approval for her plan by April. Suburban homeowners are battling a powerful alliance of real-estate developers in it for the money and social-justice warriors determined to end single-family zoning.
Local control will be obliterated. Albany will call the shots on what your town looks like, how much traffic there is, and ultimately what your home is worth.
Slate’s Henry Graber bashed Hochul’s critics as “a band of recalcitrant, remorseless ne’er-do-wells.” He’s wrong. Their concerns are legitimate. For most people, their home is their biggest asset.
Opponents of single-family zoning are also playing the race card. ERASE Racism President Laura Harding says she’s fighting for a Long Island “free of structural racism and de facto segregation.” The same phony pretext is being trotted out everywhere.
Racial discrimination is abhorrent and should be prosecuted. But as a Brookings analysis of the 2020 census shows, race isn’t a barrier to suburban living: Blacks are moving to the suburbs at a faster pace than whites. Anybody can be suburban. It just takes money.
Especially in Connecticut. In 2022, developer Arnold Karp purchased a colonial house on tree-lined Weed Street in small, ultra-wealthy New Canaan. There are no commercial or multi-family buildings on the street. He wants to build a five-story, 102-unit apartment complex with 30% set aside for affordable housing.
Weed Street is only a 10-minute drive or 17 minutes on the local train to Stamford, a midsize city where the quantity of affordable housing (nearly 16%) exceeds state guidelines.
Ensuring a supply of affordable housing within a region is more reasonable than demanding every town alter its character.
Local officials explain that New Canaan’s six-person fire department doesn’t even have hoses or trucks to fight a fire in a building as big as Karp’s design.
Weed Street neighbor Chris DeMuth Jr. warns Karp’s “plan is to cram over 300 people into a lot currently occupied by a single-family home.” He adds, “If they destroy Weed Street, they could come for your neighborhood next.”
In fact, Connecticut’s Senate Democrats announced they’re making housing equity “in every community in the state” a top priority.
Democrats seem to believe everyone has a right to the same lifestyle, whether they’ve earned enough to pay the tab or not. So why stop with housing equity? Government could also compel fine restaurants to set aside a certain number of tables for “affordable” dining. All for the sake of — you got it — dining equity.
Betsy McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and a former lieutenant governor of New York State. Reprinted with permission of Betsy McCaughey