Jeff Sessions joins fellow conservatives to push back against new federal housing rules

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U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions joined with five fellow members of the Republican Senate majority in co-sponsoring a bill by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah designed to stop President Barack Obama‘s “assault on the suburbs,” as proponents of the measure have called new federal housing regulations.

The move comes as new provisions of a Department of Housing & Urban Development initiative called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) would create a National Zoning Board and seek to increase Section 8 public housing in affluent cities to forward its stated goals of “promoting fair housing and equal opportunity.”

Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar sponsored the original House version back in April. He characterizes the new program differently.

“The AFFH rule, soon to be implemented by HUD … is another top-down, social engineering experiment concocted by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., that attempts to federalize local zoning decisions,” Gosar said in a prepared statement.

“Similar to other big government policies from this administration, the flawed AFFH regulation will result in more harm than good by way of increased taxes, depressed property values and further harm to impoverished communities. This is extortion and the Obama Administration should not be mandating that millions of dollars in grant money for local communities be dependent on turning over local zoning decisions to the federal government.”

The new regulatory scheme would effect Alabama neighborhoods such as Mountain Brook in Jefferson County, which is more than 90 percent white. Federal authorities would almost certainly move resources from places that are already heavily poor and African-American, such as parts of urban Birmingham to suburban locales, arguing it is in the national interest to encourage urban housing dwellers to share the same resources and environs.

Opponents of the plan — including many local suburban zoning boards and residents — for their part, argue it is their prerogative to live where they want without federal intervention to decide who their neighbors will be.

Toward that end, the bill would dismantle the program by legislatively forcing the rule to be withdrawn, as well as nixing the Assessment Tool HUD plans to use to implement it. Beyond the negative un-doing mechanisms, it also includes what Gosar called a “federalism provision” which would require HUD to consult with local governments for the purposes of furthering the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which created the department.

Sessions was joined by Sens. Marco Rubio, David Vitter, Tom Cotton and Mike Enzi in co-sponsoring the measure. The original House bill — still circulating as the 114th Congress went into summer recess Thursday — had 23 co-sponsors within the majority GOP caucus.

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