Biden Is Trying to Seize Control of Local Land-Use Regulations
In recent years, there’s been a push to move zoning decisions further from the local level. In 2019, Oregon passed House Bill 2001, making it the first statewide law to abolish single-family zoning in many areas. By expanding the state government’s jurisdiction to include zoning decisions previously handled by local agencies, the law entails an alarming centralization of state power. This was quickly followed by the introduction of similar bills in Virginia, Washington, Minnesota, and North Carolina. Now President Biden is attempting to increase federal influence over local zoning.
Included in Biden’s American Jobs Plan is a proposal that would award grants to jurisdictions that move to eliminate single-family zoning and other land-use policies the administration deems harmful. Biden’s plan has been widely opposed by conservatives and libertarians alike, but some libertarians view this zoning proposal as the plan’s silver lining. These libertarians hope federal incentives will remove government obstacles to affordable housing. To be sure, government regulations at every level increase costs and violate property rights. However, political centralization will not reduce government. To the contrary, centralization must be understood as an expansion and concentration of state power. Instead of furthering property rights, centralization will promote a one-size-fits-all approach regardless of homeowner preferences.
At this point, some may object that unlike the laws introduced at the state level, Biden’s proposal could be resisted by simply refusing the grants. Indeed, a White House Official describes Biden’s approach to zoning as “purely carrot, no stick.” However, this offers little reassurance. Experience has shown that governments cannot be relied upon to refuse funding, and as Murray Rothbard points out, “[G]overnment subsidy inevitably brings government control.” Once the public becomes accustomed to the federal standards and local governments become dependent on the federal money, there’s little to stop them from accepting those same standards as laws. We need only look at education to see where federal subsidies can lead.
The zoning issue is instructive, because it demonstrates both how the federal government can seize control of local functions through the back door, and how a move from the local to state level can lead to further centralization. Given that centralization moves decisions further from in
Article from Mises Wire