There’s an opinion piece in the LA Times entitled “A Dark Side to the California Dream: How the State Constitution Makes Affordable Housing Hard to Build” that highlights a provision in the State Constitution that opponents claim is a “racist stain on our history”.
It begins with an eye-rolling introduction that would only pull at the heartstrings of the soft headed:
“Californians voted to put a provision in the state Constitution that makes it harder for poor people to find a place to live.”
Narrator: No, they didn’t. The piece euphemistically redefines “affordable housing” and has obligatory racism accusations, but the crux of it is the desire of California politicians to build more taxpayer subsidized public housing, and the people not “letting them”.
First and foremost, the California Dream is not and has never been about taxpayer subsidized public housing. Nor does the State Constitution make “affordable housing” hard to build.
What the LA Times opinion writer has a problem with is Article 34 in the California State Constitution, which states:
“No low rent housing project shall hereafter be developed, constructed, or acquired in any manner by any state public body until, a majority of the qualified electors of the city, town or county, as the case may be, in which it is proposed to develop, construct, or acquire the same, voting upon such issue, approve such project by voting in favor thereof at an election to be held for that purpose, or at any general or special election.”
Article 34 allows the voters in a city, town, or county to decide if or when public housing, or “the Projects” as they’re commonly known, are built in their communities. To look at it from the point of view of supporters of more public housing, if your community is comprised of people who need or want taxpayer subsidized public housing, then your community can vote in favor of having it built there. But most communities vote, “Not in my backyard,” because they know what the negative effects in their communities will be, which is also why the voters turn it down every time opponents try to repeal it.
Article 34 came about through the frustration of communities that had no say when the government wanted to force the Projects into their neighborhoods. Through a ballot initiative, the voters of California approved a Proposition to remedy this situation, to protect themselves from unwanted government actions.
The premise of it preventing “affordable housing” from being built is absurd. Public housing is anything but affordable. They’re vastly expensive to build because they’re built by government contractors under government regulations at government mandated prevailing wage rates. Then they’re expensive to maintain because they’re also maintained by, you guessed it, government contractors. And on top of it, the people who live there don’t pay for all of it, the taxpayer does – and it’s doubtful the taxpayer would say any of this is affordable.
Now obviously the opinion writer means “affordable” to the user of taxpayer subsidized public housing, but if somebody else was paying your way, everything would seem pretty affordable.
Real “affordable housing” is private developers buying large pieces of property and building a lot of houses on them until supply meets or surpasses demand. Then houses get cheap. California politicians do not support and actively try to deny building more houses unless they’re densely populated, multi story complexes around public transit, which in reality is what has created the “unaffordable housing” issue (too many people chasing too few houses).
The premise of Article 34 being racist is equally absurd. The constitutionality of Article 34 was challenged all the way up to the Supreme Court where the Justices decided in favor of Article 34, stating specifically:
“It cannot be said that California’s Article 34 rests on ‘distinctions based on race.’ The Article requires referendum approval for any low-rent public housing project, not only for projects which will be occupied by a racial minority. And the record here would not support any claim that a law seemingly neutral on its face is in fact aimed at a racial minority.”
The opinion continued:
“The people of California have also decided by their own vote to require referendum approval of low-rent public housing projects. This procedure ensures that all the people of a community will have a voice in a decision which may lead to large expenditures of local governmental funds for increased public services and to lower tax revenues. It gives them a voice in decisions that will affect the future development of their own community. This procedure for democratic decision-making does not violate the constitutional command that no State shall deny to any person the equal protection of the laws.”
Even after the Supreme Court’s decision, opponents of Article 34 keep beating the drum of racism. California State Senator Scott Wiener tweeted in response to the LA Times article:
I’m joining @BenAllenCA to introduce a constitutional amendment to repeal Article 34 of CA Constitution, which bans cities from building “low rent housing” (but no other housing) unless approved by voters. It was adopted to keep out poor/non-white people. It needs to be repealed.
— Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) December 3, 2018
State Senator Ben Allen is spearheading an effort that requires the approval of 2/3rd of both houses of the California legislature to put a proposition on the 2020 ballot that, if approved by voters, will repeal Article 34.
Attempting to frame the argument and define the provision as “racist” gives them the tool they’ll use to attack any opposition. If Article 34 is “racist”, then anyone who supports this provision is obviously a racist. If you oppose it, you’re fighting racism.
But Wiener’s words say more about what he and fellow California Democrat legislators believe about the people who supposedly benefit from public housing than the intent of Article 34, and it also reveals their true intentions for wanting it repealed.
To call this provision “racist” means that Wiener first believes taxpayer subsidized public housing is for non-white people (primarily black and Hispanic), that these groups either need the Projects or primarily benefit from the Projects, and that without the Projects they cannot get housing on their own. A constituency comprised of black and Hispanic people should find this patronizingly paternalistic view of them by their representatives offensive and insulting.
But to go off of Wiener’s view of the Projects – that they’re primarily for blacks and Hispanics – to then call Article 34 “racist” means that Wiener also believes voters who don’t want the Projects in their communities must only be white. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti notably stated, “[The roots of Article 34 is] a white supremacist chapter in the state’s history.”
Except that’s not the case. Even Los Angeles, which isn’t known to be comprised by a majority of supposed “white supremacists,” has voted not to overturn Article 34 during previous attempts, and have voted to not have more Projects built in their communities.
But Wiener’s characterization of it as a “racist scar” alludes to what his plans will be if he is ever successful at repealing it. Supporting Article 34 isn’t racist, but the effort behind its repeal is, fueled by an anti-white bigotry that permeates through the nation’s so-called “progressive” institutions and policy decisions.
An early opponent of Article 34, James Lintner, stated in a letter to the Community Relations Conference of Southern California that, “[Article 34 creates] the good life only for affluent white suburbs,” decried people of a similar socioeconomic background freely living in the same neighborhood as an “immoral caste society” with Article 34 acting as a “structural brick we have used to build the walls of,” and called for Article 34’s removal from the State Constitution.
But what does that mean in non social justice speak?
Lintner back then, followed by Wiener, Allen, Garcetti, the LA Times writer, and others of this “broad coalition” today, believe Article 34 protects “affluent white suburbs” from “poor black and Hispanic Projects”, so they want to repeal it in order to use the government to force “poor black and Hispanic Projects” into “affluent white suburbs”.
They consider people moving to a nicer, more expensive, safer neighborhood as an injustice that must be righted through government action. This economic and racially motivated policy isn’t some wild-eyed conspiracy by “white supremacists” when those who prescribe to this policy openly state it over and over again.
Nor is its implementation a new concept; it’s been done on a much grander scale. During the Obama Administration, head of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Julian Castro implemented regulatory changes to the Fair Housing Act called the “Small Area Fair Market Rents” in which they used a method they called “Diversity Mapping,” searching demographics by zip code to specifically target which ones were “most white and affluent”, to give high dollar rental vouchers to “non-white” users of Section 8 public housing to afford high rent in the white affluent neighborhoods, all while reducing the value of rental vouchers in urban neighborhoods so they could no longer afford to live there in order to “push” poor non-whites into the affluent white areas.
He also threatened to sue landlords in these areas for discrimination if they wouldn’t accept Section 8 tenants with criminal records, and he implemented an additional regulation called “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing,” which was designed to pressure suburban counties receiving federal grant dollars to change local zoning laws to build more low-income housing, and required landlords of these properties to accept Section 8 vouchers. It was an intentional scheme to force the inner city into “affluent white suburbs.”
This had also been done during the Clinton Administration with the “Moving to Opportunity Initiative,” which consequently led to non-whites who used Section 8 vouchers in affluent white suburbs to stay on welfare longer, to increase usage of food stamps, for their children to not do better in schools, and for violent crime to increase in once peaceful neighborhoods. It’s proven to be a miserable failure.
The Trump Administration has temporarily halted the “Small Area Fair Market Rents” program, but, as with all “progressive” programs that have been halted nationally by the Trump Administration, California politicians like Wiener see it as their defiant act of resistance to re-implement them within the state (like Net Neutrality, healthcare individual mandates, etc), and it seems this is their attempt to continue that economic and racially motivated policy.
Segregation through government force imposed by Democrats in the south after the Civil War was a true racist scar, and was rightfully done away with. The federal government had to step in to prevent state-forced segregation, but it wasn’t there to force integration; there is a difference, and it’s an important distinction.
People still prefer to live in communities of similar income levels or ethnic, racial, cultural, religious, or social groups; they freely associate or disassociate, and that isn’t a bad thing. Humans are, by their very nature, tribalistic. The freedom to associate with whomever they like into communities that they prefer, as well as to disassociate from whomever they don’t like and out of communities they don’t prefer, is how communities of like-minded people come together and decide what’s best for them, but an added American value is taking care not to infringe on the rights of others.
Those who oppose Article 34 believe that “building and living in taxpayer funded public housing in whatever community they prefer” is a right – that they have a right to use the government to forcibly take what others earn through taxation, to spend that confiscated wealth on public housing, and to put that housing in communities that don’t want it. That’s not how rights work, but opponents of Article 34 claim this is a form of Civil Rights driven economic and anti-racist integration, regardless of what the Supreme Court decided.
The government desiring to use force to integrate people to the government’s preferences is as bad as government using force to segregate people. Government force is the common evil, and that’s what Wiener and his “broad coalition” are proposing.
Opponents of Article 34 in the LA Times piece openly state that forcible integration is their reason for wanting it repealed, and why it’s an obstacle to their goal.
“The Supreme Court case [that decided in favor of Article 34] is one of the most important defeats in civil rights history in the last century, and is under-appreciated in how much it contributed to the stoppage of efforts to integrate communities across the country,” said Matthew Lassiter, a history professor at the University of Michigan and so-called “expert” on American suburbs.”
So, it begs the question: if forcible segregation was and is wrong, how is forcible integration not?
If people, out of their own free will, have over time moved into and/or grown into a mostly homogeneous community of whatever commonality, or left communities they no longer wanted to be a part of, why does the government need to forcibly change that? And why are only affluent white communities typically targeted?
There could be other reasons why Article 34 opponents want it repealed. It’ll undoubtedly benefit developer donors with government building contracts. Pretending to help the disadvantaged is always a great cover for unadulterated cronyism. But could the underlying reason just be to force this onto “affluent white” communities as a form of atonement for economic and racial grievances, as their rhetoric suggests? To fight against or give non-whites access to this magical “white privilege” so-called progressives are always talking about to attempt to raise the outcomes of “underprivileged groups” (which never ends up happening)? Or is it to simply amass power, to target only swing Assembly, State Senate, or Congressional Districts with huge influxes of reliable Democrat voters?
Whatever the intent, rest assured there will never be a Project on the corner of 17th and Diamond in San Francisco (Wiener’s neighborhood).
But make no mistake, Wiener and his “broad coalition” want to take away the people’s power and their vote in order to force the Projects into communities that don’t want them (ironically, through a vote by the people via ballot initiative). That is the goal, and the voters and the State Constitution are their obstacles. This won’t just affect “white” communities though, as they’re hoping the charges of racism against Article 34 stick; this takes away ALL communities’ right to vote so the government can put the Projects anywhere it wants. They’re hoping that the mentality of California voters has changed enough since they last tried to repeal Article 34 in 1993 to be successful this time around.
Articles in the California State Constitution are similar to the Bill of Rights; they’re meant to delegate and limit the powers of the State, and to protect us from government. What does it say about politicians and their broad coalition who desire to repeal one of them?
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