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June 2015 Policy Study, Number 15-6


The Nanny State Is Expanding And Private-Property Rights Are Decreasing





Did you know that recent and proposed actions by the federal government are making Eastern Iowa part of the greater-Chicago area?  The distance from Chicago to Dubuque, or Clinton, or Davenport is around 200 miles. It’s almost 250 to Burlington.  This is a drive of four to five hours, even with no traffic. 


Ever thought about commuting to Chicago, or Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on a daily basis?  Probably not.  Yet the expanding federal nanny state has decided that our river towns, many of which are struggling to provide good jobs and decent housing for low-income people who already live here, should focus on recruiting low-income people from outside the state to live in Iowa.  This is instead of taking care of the poor families with children, retired elderly, or disabled adults who already live here.  And instead of working to recruit military veterans, active retirees, or young college graduates, who can start businesses, begin families, return home, and help lift their neighborhoods up.


The federal government is also infringing on the rights of house and apartment owners wishing to rent their private property to whomever they want.  This expansion and infringement on private-property rights is not only continuing, but expanding. 


The process is starting with the low-income housing programs of Dubuque.  Even before the adoption of the proposed Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) this summer, Dubuque is being required to alter their Section 8 low-income housing standards to not focus on the local needy citizens, but instead to attract and recruit new low-income people from areas outside of Iowa.  The requirement is specifically to recruit low-income applicants and approved users of Section 8 housing vouchers to more closely reflect the demographics of Chicago. 


Dubuque is not a city which could be considered wealthy and elite.  Local residents are not looking to increase the number of people who are dependent on government services for their daily living needs.  Instead, Dubuque (like the other river cities) is struggling to revive its economic base, keep its young people from moving away, and provide for the needs of those who currently live there, who vote there, and who pay taxes there: people who they already have an obligation to.


The negative and unintended result of the HUD micromanagement of the Section 8 low-income housing program in Dubuque is already beginning.  The new list of eligible applicants is expected to close this summer, and the wait time for housing vouchers could be two years or more.  There is not enough money to fund the required number of vouchers.  The administrative burden imposed by HUD is significant, and Dubuque is required to follow their every direction for the next five years or more.


The elected officials responsible for the governance of our other small towns, including those such as Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, and Mount Pleasant – and those even further west – must take note.  Once they lose local control of housing, then schools, zoning, transportation, the environment, and business location will be next.  The central planners of HUD intend to use “big data” to force every region of the U.S. to meet nationally determined standards for the management and makeup of every aspect of our local communities.  These regions will be directed by unelected governing boards who do not report to the voters.  The “regions” do not even have to be contiguous.


Though many local elected officials probably believe they can retain local control, if you take the federal government’s money you must play by their rules.  Some officials are already acting to turn down economic development block grants and the federal control which comes with them, or at least to more closely consider the implications of accepting the money, but more need to be aware of the risks, implications, and results.  If HUD and the central planners have their way, there are likely to be more Dubuques, not fewer. 


It cannot be said too often: if you take their money, you play by their rules.  Their rules are not pretty.




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