What Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 could mean for architects and planners

Project 2025, an “extremist far-right agenda” for a second Trump term, has rung alarm bells for the Draconian proposals it envisions during the Republican presidential candidate’s first 180 days in office, if elected. The plan is outlined in Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise, a 922-page document from the Heritage Foundation, a far-right wing think tank. It has been called “Christian nationalist,” “fascist,” and a “threat to democracy” for the changes it would make to the executive branch.

In short, Project 2025 proposes abolishing the Department of Education, delivering massive wealth transfers to the 1 percent in the form of tax cuts, curbing abortion access, slashing disability benefits for veterans, cutting climate regulations for oil and gas companies, and defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which supports NPR and PBS). Women, people of color, disabled individuals, and the elderly would lose protections against workplace discrimination and harassment.

Aside from its ramifications for teachers and civil service employees, if implemented, Project 2025 presents major changes for stewards of the built world. It would create a more “conservative EPA,” shrink HUD, and hack away at public transit infrastructure investment, among other things.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C. building
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C. (F. Delventhal/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

On Housing and Urban Development

In Chapter 15 of the Project 2025 guidebook, Ben Carson outlined major policy changes he’d like to see for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Trump appointee, and former HUD secretary, shared that HUD ought to shrink, by a lot. Carson, educated as a surgeon, recommends “devolving many HUD functions to states and localities.” For instance, so-called “Indian Housing” would be moved from under HUD’s mandate to the Department of the Interior. 

Carson’s proposal is anti-immigrant and protectionist. If carried out, HUD would bar “noncitizens, including all mixed-status families, from living in federal assisted housing.” And the Secretary of HUD would become a member of the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment. This is meant to curb foreign investment in the ownership markets of single-family and multifamily housing, specifically from China. 

Project 2025 would also embolden local planning boards fighting against affordable housing construction in the suburbs. Carson said he would eliminate all efforts that “weaken single-family zoning” and “threaten to undermine the integrity of real estate appraisals.” Carson also wants to squash the new Housing Supply Fund, a $35 billion Biden Administration program meant to boost affordable housing construction.

aerial view of housing development
Republicans have long fought to preserve single-family zoning. (La Citta Vita/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

On the Environment

Trump’s HUD as envisioned by the Heritage Foundation would slash all climate change initiatives in HUD’s budget. But the climate deregulation wouldn’t end there. 

Chapter 13 of the Mandate for Leadership is authored by Republican climate strategist Mandy M. Gunasekara, who writes about building a more “conservative EPA.” Gunesakara wants the Environmental Protection Agency to curb oil, coal, and natural gas regulations and veer away from renewable energies. This would happen by rescinding the “federal coal moratorium,” boosting federal onshore oil and gas leasing programs, and exploiting the state of Alaska’s untapped oil and mineral reserves.

Chapter 16 by Wyoming conservative William Perry Pendley outlines how a Trump presidency would end the “radical environmental agenda” with major changes to the Department of the Interior (DOI).

To date, Pendley has called climate change “junk science,” people who fight global warming “kooks,” and said he does not believe there is a hole in the ozone layer. In Project 2025, Pendley states how he hopes to restore DOI’s original mission, that of fracking “vast oil and gas and coal resources.” Pendley also wants to rescind the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a law from 1918 that’s saved hundreds of bird species from extinction.

The EPA’s authority, already destabilized in recent years by a string of Supreme Court rulings, stands to be further hindered by the Court’s elimination of the Chevron doctrine, a “40-year-old precedent that afforded federal agencies a degree of discretion in interpreting ambiguous laws in their areas of expertise,” according to Forbes.

On Transportation

Under Project 2025, the Department of Transportation (DOT) would disperse far less capital for infrastructure projects, like New York and New Jersey’s Gateway Program. Instead, there would be more reliance on “private financing to construct infrastructure” in the form of public-private partnerships.

In Chapter 19, conservative British economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth said DOT should be transformed from a “de facto grantmaking organization” into a much smaller outfit focused on providing “Americans with affordable and abundant transportation.” But what exactly “affordable and abundant transportation” connotes is ill-defined.

What it does mean however is that, under Trump, DOT would curb spending from the 1991 Capital Investment Grants program and 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that supports the expansion of public transit systems. Furchtgott-Roth also said she believes in slashing government subsidies that incentivize electric vehicle (EV) ownership, like those created by current DOT Secretary Pute Buttigieg.

fracking protest sign
Banner from a 2019 protest against fracking (Alarichall/Flickr/CC BY 4.0)

Federally Mandated Neoclassicism?

Surprisingly, Project 2025 doesn’t contain any stylistic directives for the architecture of federal buildings. The issue flared up toward the end of Trump’s presidency in 2020 when he signed an executive order that declared that “all new federal buildings in Washington, D.C. must be designed, by default, in the neoclassical style.” The proclamation was met with an uproar at the time and was rescinded when Biden took office.

The battle moved to Congress last summer, where two opposing bills respectively attempted to codify an official federal style of classicism and uphold the GSA’s guiding principals for federal architecture, in place since 1962.

Fifty Years of Conservative Lobbying

The Heritage Foundation was cofounded in 1973 by Joseph Coors, the Coors beer magnate, to help cut taxes for the uber wealthy. Today, its sponsors include ExxonMobil, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Shell, Dow Chemical, General Motors, Pfizer, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Altria (which produces Marlboro cigarettes), and hundreds of other corporations. Many of its members are real estate developers.

The far-right wing think tank came under fire recently when its president, Kevin Roberts, told Steve Bannon that “we are in the process of the second American Revolution, which will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.”

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