A few weeks ago, I was reading “The Biden Plan For Investing In Our Communities Through Housing.” Their idea is to “Eliminate local and state housing regulations that perpetuate discrimination.” Yes. Discrimination is a terrible, unjust and illegal practice. It continues, “Exclusionary zoning has for decades been strategically used to keep people of color and low-income families out of certain communities.” Wait, what? What is exclusionary zoning? Isn’t zoning race-neutral by law?
I thought zoning regulations broadly concern rules of land use. How, what, and where structures may or may not be built. Areas deemed Residential. Commercial. Industrial. Conformity to standards that have naturally evolved over time to best suit unique, local community needs through thoughtful service of representative Commissions. Now, on the other hand, what zoning regulations do not do, and cannot do, is ordain who lives where, and who owns what. That would amount to unlawful discrimination.
An outside coalition has presented us with a 145pp. application to amend our town-wide residential zoning regulations to allow low-income, multi-family rental units. Their petition to TPZ is signed by Open Communities Alliance and a representative of Yale Law School. They’ve purchased 2 Orchard Road, a single-family home in our Residence District A Zone, and intend to spend quite a bit converting the home into 4 apartments. If their application is successful, they look forward to repeating this model all over town. Easy, then only a simple permit will be needed! Goodbye, single family zoning!
The problem of lack of low-income housing is a symptom of the larger problem of low incomes. The solution is not artificially social-engineering Woodbridge by skin color. That would be a discriminatory process that not only insultingly assumes inability for self-achievement, as well as a false, disempowering need for dependency, but also does nothing to create proven conditions for success. Prior to the Pandemic, unemployment was at an all-time low and low incomes were rising. Through effective Republican leadership, the economy was booming in a way that was growing opportunity for every American.
Simply moving to a different zip code does not confer success. Promoting and rewarding individual excellence does. Our residents are not successful because of our zip code, rather home ownership is a by-product of sustained well-directed effort that anyone can model and foster in others. That opportunity has no geographical or personal restrictions.
I refuse to apologize for our zoning. Our town reflects our unique culture over centuries, and welcomes all ethnicities and faiths. Our population is diverse in background and occupation.
Politically, the Republicans have repealed the destructive AFFH rule, which took away decision-making from local communities and enabled federal overreach into zoning. The Biden Administration will undo that action, and promises legislation that withholds block grants for things like road improvement if our zoning isn’t “compliant.” They will invest in eliminating “sprawl.” What’s that, exactly? Us, again? If Woodbridge is “sprawl,” I like our sprawl.