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The Sierra Vista City Council will be deciding whether to apply for CDBG grants now that Sierra Vista is a new "entitlement" city, at a special meeting Tuesday, August 12th at 3pm. HUD's new rules intend to erase all zoning codes in every community that takes CDBG funds. Cities that do not comply will jeopardize their funding but not right now. HUD will wait until there are years worth of projects in various stages of completion and then will pull the plug......like they did in Westchester County NY. The county has battled HUD since 2007. Part of their story is below. The last page is a list of links to the actions that Westchester County, and several other cities and counties, have had to endure under the new HUD regime.
In July of 2013 HUD proposed rule changes to the Fair Housing Act that would give HUD the ability to make community zoning changes by forcing communities to “affirmatively further fair housing” by eliminating “segregation and discrimination”. The rule changes were published in the Federal Register with the required 60 day comment period ending September 2013 with a final enforcement date of October 1, 2014 .1
HUD has determined all private housing is discriminatory and violates the Civil Rights Act of 1974 which they mean to rectify by using census track data to evaluate patterns of segregation, exclusionary zoning, “racial and ethnic concentrations of poverty” 2 using information provided by communities as “Strategic Plans”, “Annual Action Plans” and “Impediment Analysis” which the City is about to provide to HUD.
The rule changes as presented have been thoroughly consumer tested by HUD in several locations and levels of government to assure that any obstacles to implementation were eliminated. HUD targeted Westchester County, NY, as their initial “Grand Experiment” in 2007 by suing the County under the “False Claims Act” (31USC –3729). Westchester County is comprised primarily of high-mod to upper income communities, but does have areas in some communities with Section 8 housing, some run down areas, ethnic and racial neighborhoods which is why it was targeted first.
Westchester County certified their compliance with affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH) and Fair Housing Choices rules from April 1, 2000 to April 1, 2006 as required by contract. HUD decided the County had filed untrue reports failing to “overcome existing and known impediments to fair housing arising from racial discrimination and segregation”.3
After 2 years of litigation the County acquiesced to a settlement with HUD agreeing to a fine of $30 million – $21.6 million was returned to Westchester HUD account to build a total of 750 one and two bedroom units in the 31 county communities— comply with new “model zoning ordinances” and encourage the 31 communities to also adopt them; and specific requirements for selection criteria, financing, development process, management and marketing. A last stipulation was to agree to continued monitoring by an impartial monitor that would also be mediator between the County and HUD.4 Westchester County thought this settlement would solve their problems with HUD and they would be able to move forward with the their HUD projects but HUD was just beginning to test the extent of the possibilities with new rules.
This short video of Rob Astorino, County Executive of Westchester County, describes the overreach by HUD and how local zoning is threatened by the HUD rules: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KZJYO2XvpM
HUD continued to harass Westchester County5 while it was extending its reach to States, counties and cities across the US: Texas, Marin County CA, Joilet Il; Houston TX, Sussex County DE, Dubuque IA, Dallas TX. 6 Each community was subjected to disapproval actions, report rejections and compliance agreements under threat of losing their HUD funding because they violated the AFFH.
Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing:
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 new regulations were written to solve the issues of source of income discrimination, segregation, and exclusionary zoning practices. Communities that accept CDBG funds, or any other HUD funding, will be subject to the goals of these new HUD regulations to affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH). Failure to comply will result in any and all HUD funds being withheld if communities will not change their local zoning codes and ordinances. To be perfectly clear, these rules will not allow any restrictions of lot sizes, set backs, height requirements, lots over 1/4 acre, density or retail/commercial designations, and limit single family residences in local zoning. HUD thinks these are “obstructions” to AFFH and are all considered “exclusionary” and discriminatory because they set limits that could prohibit everybody from occupying a piece of property if that is where they want to live. HUD assumes that every piece of property within a community should be subject to AFFH regardless of who owns it. Personal property rights, water rights, home rule nor the Constitution enter into any consideration by HUD in these rules.
Arizona Representative Paul Gosar attempted to stop these regulations from going into effect by proposing an amendment to HR 47457 the appropriations bill for the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Departments. It passed in the House and was sent to the Senate. The Senate is sitting on many appropriations bills so the odds of this bill stopping the HUD rules before they do into effect are nil.
City of Sierra Vista Strategic Plan for 2015-2019 and Action Plan for 2015
Link to Consolidated Plan http://www.sierravistaaz.gov/egov/documents/1405443656_95429.pdf
As a new “entitlement community” it is tempting to consider the Federal funds that may become available to the City by submitting this “Plan” but these funds come with too many invisible strings as described above.
In reviewing the proposed Plan to HUD there are several alarming items that will directly put Sierra Vista into the cross hairs of HUD. It is also evident from the answers in the Plan that the City does not have the staff or expertise to carry out the demands of HUD in this cycle.
The most disconcerting are pages 73, 86-87
Page 73 SP-60 Homelessness Strategy - 91.215d second paragraph in parenthesis: (especially chronically homeless individuals and families, families with children, veterans and their families and unaccompanied youth)
Page 86 AP-65 Homeless and Other Special Needs Activities Second paragraph line 8: Helping homeless persons (especially chronically homeless individuals and families, families with children, veterans and their families and unaccompanied youth)
Up until these two pages there has not been a mention on “unaccompanied youth” which is government speak for the unlawful surge that is happening at the border in Texas with illegals, mostly boys ages 14-22 a majority of which are members of MS-13 gangs with criminal records in their countries. These “unaccompanied youth” are being loaded on buses and shipped together to small sub-urban and rural communities who are completely unequipped to handle this volume of potential trouble makers in either their schools or their jails. BUT, by HUD recognizing them as a “class” to serve, HUD can also use their funding as a tool and a weapon to force communities to accept these boys. This should be of grave concern to City Staff and the Council.
Finally, on page 87 AP-75 Barriers to affordable housing – this is where HUD tells you exactly what they want if you want their money.
Actions it (the City) planned to remove or ameliorate the negative effects of public policies (list follows) that serve as barriers to affordable housing such as land use controls, tax policies affecting land, zoning ordinances, building codes, fees and charges, growth limitations (in all directions including height, lot size, etc) and policies affecting the return on residential investment.
The cities response does not answer this requirement. This is a red flag to HUD to either deny the request because the City obviously doesn’t yet get that HUD wants specific changes to city zoning ordinances targeting those issues. Or, alerts HUD that this community is ripe for re-education.
In either case the City’s request for HUD funds for “ADA improvements Citywide” has nothing to do with keeping people in their homes. HUD is not interested in “quality of life” issues, they are focused on control of private property using city ordinances or codes to affirmatively further fair housing.
Conclusion: Do NOT forward this request to HUD.
There are 1,000 communities/counties in the US that participate in HUD programs which is about 1/3 of the total number of communities meaning that 2/3 do not put themselves under the thumb of HUD. It would be negligent of the Council/City Staff to place Sierra Vista City residents and their private property rights in jeopardy by enlisting in this program knowing the eventual outcome goals.
The City of Sierra Vista does not have the staff to fully comply with the program requirements of HUD and will have to pass them off to other government and non-profit entities. It is great to be the checkbook for the community programs to help eliminate homelessness and affirmatively further fair housing, but does the City have the checkbook to withstand an attack by the Federal government such as what has happened to Westchester county? Could Sierra Vista even down the road 6 years into this withstand the pulling of federal funds on previous years worth of projects because the zoning has not been altered to comply with HUDs definition of “affirmatively furthering fair housing”??
As a former grant writer I can tell you that the Consolidated Plan Document does not meet the criteria HUD is looking for. It does, however, provide a blueprint for further action with all of the housing and population data compartmentalized and provided in this document. The data is provided by HUD but the City has filled in the blanks for HUD so they can compare it with their matrix and then list their targets. The City needs to return a one page letter thanking HUD for considering Sierra Vista, but the City will not be participating at this time.
6. List of HUD filings against communities for AFFH and “discrimination”
State of Texas,-- Memo to Members Newsletter to Nat’l Low Income Housing Coalition, 11-16-2009, Page 6
Marin County, CA -- FHEO and California County Sign Voluntary Compliance Agreement Addressing AFFH, Other Fair Housing Issues, 1-14-2011
Joilet, Illinois – HUD and DOJ Sue Joliet, Illinois To Preserve Affordable Housing and Prevent Discrimination 8-19-2011
Houston, TX, --- HUD Rejects Houston Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice 2-17-2012,
Sussex County, DE — Sussex County, Delaware Signs Voluntary Fair Housing Compliance Agreement 12-7-2012
Dubuque, IA — HUD Finds Dubuque Voucher Policies Violate Civil Rights Act, 6-28-2013
Dallas, TX — HUD Challenges Dallas’ Fair Housing Compliance, 12-6-2013
DECEMBER 06, 2013 HUD Challenges Dallas’ Fair Housing Compliance
HUD 40 Years Then and Now