December 15, 2014
The Providence (R.I.) Journal quoted me in its Truth-O-Meter column: Mike Stenhouse: According to HUD, It’s Unfair, Unjust for Wealthy to Live in Exclusive Neighborhoods. The column reads, in part,
For more than three years, the Rhode Island Division of Planning has been working on RhodeMap RI, a long-term economic development plan meant to help guide efforts to improve the state’s economy.
The process, partly financed by a $1.9-million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), didn’t get much notice until a nearly 200-page draft of the plan was released in mid-September, igniting a firestorm of controversy.
Critics of the plan denounced it as a thinly disguised blueprint for social engineering. If it is implemented, they say, local communities will be forced to cede authority to the federal government on issues such as affordable housing and land use, and individual property rights will be under threat.
Supporters, including Governor Chafee and the planners and community leaders who drafted the plan, say it’s a well crafted, comprehensive guide that will help move the state’s economy forward over the decades ahead. They say there’s nothing in the plan that would infringe on individual property rights or local home rule.
The debate grew so heated at one meeting a shouting match broke out, with charges of racism and bigotry hurled. And last week, at a meeting of the Statewide Planning Council, opponents called it unconstitutional, socialist and even treasonous. Nonetheless, the council voted unanimously to adopt it.
Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, a conservative research group, has led the opposition. A few weeks ago, he talked about the plan on WPRO-AM’s “The Dan Yorke Show.”
Yorke asked Stenhouse to cite a component of the plan “that highlights what you think is problematic.”
“I’m going to give you my interpretation,” Stenhouse responded. “I don’t have their plan in front of me. What we believe, for instance, take Poppasquash Point in Bristol. According to HUD, it is patently unfair and socially unjust that wealthy people can live in an exclusive neighborhood.”
We wondered whether Stenhouse was right about HUD’s view of wealthy neighborhoods such as Poppasquash Point, one of the state’s priciest enclaves.
When we asked Stenhouse about his statement, he told us he was not directly quoting HUD, but said that his statement was “an accurate interpretation of HUD’s openly stated intent.” He provided links to multiple documents to support his position.
While we don’t view Stenhouse’s statement as a direct quote of HUD policy, we do believe that listeners who heard Stenhouse’s preface — “according to HUD” — would assume he was summarizing HUD’s policy.
Stenhouse’s backup is comprised primarily of links to a news story and an editorial in Investor’s Business Daily and links to various legal documents and HUD regulations.
* * *
According to David Reiss, a professor of real estate and housing policy at Brooklyn Law School, “HUD does not interpret the FHA [Fair Housing Act] to mean that `wealthy people’ can’t `live in an exclusive neighborhood.’”
“An exclusive neighborhood is an expensive one – the FHA does not ban expensive neighborhoods.” Reiss continued in an email statement. “What it does do is ban exclusionary practices. Exclusionary practices are those that exclude people based on certain of their characteristics such as their race, sex or religion. To my knowledge, HUD has never taken the position that merely living in an exclusive – that is, expensive — neighborhood violates the FHA.”
We also asked HUD whether Stenhouse had accurately characterized its rules.
“There are simply no policies, practices, regulations or anything that can validate such hyper hyperbole,” Brian Sullivan, a public affairs officer with HUD, said in an email statement.
Mike Stenhouse said “According to HUD, it is patently unfair and socially unjust that wealthy people can live in an exclusive neighborhood.”
There’s no doubt that HUD has challenged what it considers to be discriminatory practices at the community level, including exclusionary zoning ordinances.
But that’s not nearly the same as objecting to the right of wealthy people to live in expensive neighborhoods.
We rule Stenhouse’s claim False.| Permalink