Biden Wants to End Single-Family Zoning in America’s Suburbs

Will Democrats abolish the suburbs altogether?

Posted on Sep 10, 2020

Joe Biden wants to end single-family zoning in America’s suburbs. On the first night Republican National Convention, Patricia McClosky said that Biden and the leftist socialists running the Democratic Party “want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning.”

She’s right.

Now, what does it mean? Single-family zoning protects suburban neighborhoods from high-density apartment buildings to be constructed in their backyards. A single-family zoning area means only residential houses are permitted to be constructed in a neighborhood.

Biden wants to eliminate single-family zoning. According to the National Review:

Biden’s own housing plan says that he wants to “eliminate local and state housing regulations that perpetuate discrimination.” Biden then identifies “exclusionary zoning” as the kind of housing regulation he wants to “eliminate.” Here, “exclusionary zoning” is Biden’s term for what is more commonly called “single-family zoning.”

We know this because Biden’s own plan goes on to promise that he will eliminate “exclusionary zoning” by passing the HOME Act of 2019, co-sponsored by Senator Cory Booker and House majority whip James Clyburn. The HOME Act of 2019 requires any municipality receiving Community Development Block Grants from HUD, or benefiting from federal Surface Transportation Grants for highway construction and repair, to submit a plan to “reduce barriers” to high-density low-income housing. The plan must choose from a menu of items, most of which in some way limit or eliminate single-family zoning. True, the HOME Act also offers a few non-zoning-related options as acceptable ways to qualify for federal grants (e.g. forcing landlords to accept Section 8 housing vouchers as rent payments). For the most part, however, Booker-Clyburn ties the receipt of federal grants to the limitation or elimination of traditional single-family zoning. This is highly coercive because few or no suburban municipalities can afford to cut themselves off from federally assisted road repairs.

In short, Biden’s own housing plan pledges to use Booker–Clyburn to “eliminate” “exclusionary zoning,” which the HOME Act of 2019 makes clear is another way of referring to “single-family zoning.” In fact, Cory Booker’s press release for the HOME Act gives the following examples of the kind of “exclusionary zoning laws” the law will combat: 1) “local ordinances that ban apartment buildings from certain residential areas;” 2) local ordinances that “set a minimum lot size for a single-family home.” It is clear that the Booker–Clyburn HOME Act is designed to undo single-family zoning, and that Biden has pledged to support it.

In other words, Biden fully endorses allowing the federal government to use the threat of withholding federal money – in this case $12 billion in federal grants for infrastructure needs such as road repairs – in order to coerse municipalities to change their zoning laws.

President Trump is committed to defending the suburbs. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, penned by the President and HUD Secretary Ben Carson, they outlined their efforts:

The crime and chaos in Democrat-run cities have gotten so bad that liberals are even getting out of Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Rather than rethink their destructive policies, the left wants to make sure there is no escape. The plan is to remake the suburbs in their image so they resemble the dysfunctional cities they now govern. As usual, anyone who dares tell the truth about what the left is doing is smeared as a racist.

We won’t allow this to happen. That’s why we stopped the last administration’s radical social-engineering project that would have transformed the suburbs from the top down. We reversed an Obama-Biden regulation that would have empowered the Department of Housing and Urban Development to abolish single-family zoning, compel the construction of high-density “stack and pack” apartment buildings in residential neighborhoods, and forcibly transform neighborhoods across America so they look and feel the way far-left ideologues and technocratic bureaucrats think they should.

We reject the ultraliberal view that the federal bureaucracy should dictate where and how people live. We believe the suburbs offer a wonderful life for Americans of all races and backgrounds when they are allowed to grow organically, from the bottom up. That’s how America’s suburbs are today—except those that have already been ruined by poor planning and policies.