AMAC Exclusive – By Seamus Brennan
As part of their ploy to remake American society and secure a permanent political majority, the progressive left has in recent years launched a largely under-the-radar assault on a staple of the American Dream – single-family homes. Under the guise of addressing “climate change” and “systemic racism,” far left politicians in liberal cities and now at the federal level have sought to both prevent the construction of more single-family units and replace existing single-family homes with multi-family housing complexes. Single-family homes are the typical suburban homes found in neighborhoods across America, and are usually owned rather than rented. Conversely, multi-family units house more than one family (like apartment buildings or condos) and are usually rented.
In eliminating single-family homes, progressives are hopeful that an increasingly urbanized America will share the liberal economic and social values of most large cities, handing progressive politicians perennial control of the halls of power. The primary tool used by the far left to accomplish this goal is control of local zoning laws, which designate certain areas for either single-family or multi-family construction projects. Last year, Oregon and Minnesota became the first states to essentially ban single-family zoning altogether, followed soon by California and Maryland. Oftentimes, legislators at the state level have overridden local zoning commissions, ignoring the desires of communities who don’t want multi-family complexes nearby.
The cost of such policies is the independence and economic freedom that comes with owning a home – and the right of people to have a say in what type of community they want to live in. As this liberal crusade gains momentum, conservatives have entered the fold to oppose it, exposing what has largely been a covert effort on the part of the far-left. As the battle for the suburbs heats up, no one has been more involved in exposing the dangers of abolishing single-family zoning than writer and thinker Joel Kotkin.
Kotkin, a Presidential Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and the Executive Director of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, has written extensively on the progressive crusade to wipe out suburban America by eliminating single-family zoning. He is the author of several books, including The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class (2020), in which he claims “We are inexorably returning towards a more feudal era marked by greater concentration of wealth and property, reduced upward mobility, demographic stagnation, and increased dogmatism.”
In an interview with AMAC Newsline, Kotkin warned that the growing movement to reverse single-family zoning does not help “anyone but developers” and, in essence, amounts to “a political movement to get rid of the middle class,” which could in turn transform the United States into a nation of renters and hand big-government progressives a permanent political majority.
Kotkin fears that progressives are seeking to achieve a nation of “propertyless millennials” who will “keep voting for as many goodies as they can extract from the state, because they have nothing of their own.” Should their plan succeed—perhaps with the aid of well-intentioned deregulatory-minded libertarians—Kotkin cautions that “no conservative will ever get elected, ever”—citing the likelihood that young renters who do not intend to purchase a home will almost always vote Democrat.
When asked about efforts in California to overturn Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent zoning law through a statewide ballot initiative, Kotkin suggested there are few reasons for optimism. “The problem that is beginning to evolve,” he said, is that “California is just about majority-renters now.”
“In those areas where renters are 60 percent of the electorate, I don’t know how you change it,” he continued, even though there may be “resistance in a lot of the single-family areas.”
“Dispersion of property is the guarantor of democracy,” Kotkin went on. “But what we’re going to get is the concentration of property, and what you end up with is you really don’t have enough people in certain areas who will push back. The only hope that single-family home neighborhoods have is that the places that are regulated this way don’t have a lot of growth, so maybe there won’t be a lot of pressure.”
Predicting that older couples living in close proximity to newly constructed urban apartment complexes will be inclined to move further out of cities, Kotkin says that “you couldn’t come up with a better policy to make cities dysfunctional. But dysfunctional cities tend to be progressive cities—the more dysfunctional, the more progressive—until there’s some sort of pushback. But who knows whether that will happen?”
Kotkin points to today’s historically high home prices in most cities as evidence of socialists, capitalists, and libertarians “working on the same wavelength” to “buy up everything they can buy up and turn everybody into renters” because “that guarantees them cashflow in the economy that probably won’t grow very rapidly anyway.”
The “combination” of progressives and libertarians, Kotkin said, is “deadly for the middle class” in America today. “The rich will get richer,” he continued, “and everyone else will be turned into a serf. That’s where we’re headed, unless people wake up.” Yet, as Kotkin notes, the entities most aggressively pushing to phase out the suburbs under the guise of so-called “zoning reform” are “very well-organized” and “very well-funded” and “get whatever media spin they want”—a reality that does not bode well for the future of single-family homes in urban areas.
Kotkin is confident the progressive campaign to effectively destroy America’s suburbs will continue to spread throughout the nation, thanks in large part to President Joe Biden. Biden, Kotkin said, was elected “as a moderate but has governed as a leftist,” and has “allowed the far left of his party” to essentially take over at a time when they have “no strong majority.” Kotkin believes Biden political appointees at the Department of Housing and Urban Development will inevitably reinstate Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, a provision of the 1968 Fair Housing Act that was rescinded by President Donald Trump to prevent a federal takeover of local control of zoning. Progressives in the Biden administration, Kotkin predicts, “are going to try to bring something that is more reminiscent of the old communist city than anything else.”
Though Kotkin remains by and large pessimistic about the future of single-family zoning in highly populated urban centers, he noted that there is perhaps a silver lining for conservatives on the national level—at least in the near future.
“I think the Biden administration, in what is the umpteenth incredibly stupid political move, is going to push this agenda, and they’re going to wonder, ‘Why are suburban parents voting against us?’” As Kotkin points out, suburbanites want “good schools, public safety, access to parks, and single-family houses… so I think there’s going to be a lot of pushback on this, and I think the Democrats—if they keep doing this—will eventually lose a lot of the middle class” and cause working class voters to move to less densely populated states.
“It’s all going to fall apart—probably next November,” Kotkin concluded. If Joe Biden and his far-left handlers both in the administration and in Congress continue down the same tumultuous path that has already cost them the Virginia Governor’s Mansion, there is little doubt the American people will take notice. And that, above all else, might be the suburbs’ best hope.