With an enthusiastic call for “sustainable urban development,” the United Nations has adopted a far-reaching document intended as a blueprint for the future of cities around the world. Described by the UN as an “inclusive, action-oriented, and concise document,” the “New Urban Agenda” (NUA) was approved on Oct. 21, the final day of the UN’s Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador.
The NUA, the UN proclaims, “will guide the next twenty years of sustainable and transformative urban development worldwide.” “It is a vision,” the UN explains, “of pluralistic, sustainable, disaster-resilient societies that foster green economic growth.” The centerpiece of the NUA is the promotion of “compact cities,” in which people will have little choice but to live in densely populated, high-rise buildings in order to lower their impact on the environment.
According to UN figures, some 30,000 people attended Habitat III, 10,000 of whom were international visitors, representing 167 countries.
New Urban Agenda
In keeping with long-standing UN tradition, the Habitat III conference was convened to address a “crisis.” This one involves the problems facing cities. They are said to require “urgent action.” And who better than the United Nations, aided by a coterie of self-described “urban exports” and “stakeholders” could provide the top-down solutions that will make the world’s cities a better place to live in the decades to come? Among the commitments contained in the New Urban Agenda are:
Ensure environmental sustainability, by promoting clean energy and sustainable use of land and resources in urban development; by protecting ecosystems and biodiversity, including adopting healthy lifestyles in harmony with nature; by promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns; by building urban resilience, by reducing disaster risks; and by mitigating and adapting to climate change.
Readdress the way we plan, finance, develop, govern, and manage cities and human settlements, recognizing sustainable urban and territorial development as essential to the achievement of sustainable development and prosperity for all.
Quito Implementation Plan
For all its grandiose pronouncements, the UN can’t force anybody to do anything. Knowing the UN lacks an enforcement mechanism that could compel cities and their residents to change their ways, numerous speakers at the conference emphasized the importance of converting the vision of the NUA into reality. To that end, delegates to Habitat III adopted the Quito Implementation Plan (QIP). “These voluntary commitments seek to be concrete actions, measurable and achievable, focused on implementation and with great depth of information for future accountability and transparency,” the UN says.
All of this may seem like little more than the typical blather served up by the chattering classes, whose members have far too much time on their hands. Unfortunately, the New Urban Agenda needs to be taken seriously thanks to a little-noticed rule being cooked up by Obama administration appointees at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing
Indeed, deep in the bowels of HUD, plans are underway that will make the pronouncements of Habitat III look like child’s play. As Stanley Kurtz of National Review Online has pointed out, HUD’s proposed “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule is “arguably the most radical, transformative” initiative the Obama administration has ever undertaken. AFFH all but eliminates the independence of suburbs, towns, and small cities in the U.S. by forcing them to address supposed “imbalances” in the racial, ethnic, and class composition of their greater metropolitan areas. Under AFFH, suburbs that accept grant money from HUD will have to change their zoning codes and build high-density, low-income housing for groups HUD deems are “underrepresented.”
As NRO points out, “Suburbs may even be forced to relocate planned schools, transportation hubs, and business districts to answer to the federal bureaucracy’s ideas of racial, ethnic, and economic ‘balance.’” What’s more, unelected regional councils composed of HUD bureaucrats, housing advocates, and other “stakeholders” will oversee and enforce the scheme. Local elected officials and ordinary taxpayers will be shunted aside and will find themselves powerless in opposing the edicts of the feds and their henchmen.
AFFH is nothing short of federal zoning of America’s suburbs, with the goal of de facto annexation of those suburbs into central cities. When combined with the Obama administration’s “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, which creates an EPA-led regulatory structure for federal zoning of rural areas, AFFH will result in Washington calling the shots on housing and land-use decisions throughout the U.S.
The administrative regulatory state, which allows federal agencies to issue rules and regulations that have the force of law behind them, is far and away the biggest threat to personal liberty in the country. In the spirit of Habitat III, but with real power behind it, Washington’s crushing bureaucracy is poised to go where globalists at the UN and elsewhere could only dream of going.