HOUSING DISCRIMINATION

HOUSING DISCRIMINATION….Via ACSBlog, I found that six days before the 37th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act, the National Fair Housing Alliance released its 2005 Fair Housing Trends Report. It provides some numerical context for a problem we all know exists, a problem that is a profound barrier to the success of so many Democratic social intiatives. I’m referring to residential segretation. Here are a few of the more stunning statistics:

  • In 69 key urban areas more than two-thirds of Whites live in areas that have less than a 5% Black population. In these same communities, more than half of Blacks live in areas that are more than 50% African-American.

  • 58% of the suburban neighborhoods surveyed were exclusively White as compared with 21% of urban neighborhoods.
  • 41% of African-Americans live in hyper-segregated neighborhoods, meaning all-Black high density neighborhoods surrounded by other all-Black neighborhoods. Another 18% of African-Americans also live in conditions of high segregation.

  • The average White person lives in a neighborhood that is 80% White and only 7% Black. The average Black person lives in a neighborhood that is only 33% White and as much as 51% Black.

The National Fair Housing Alliance has an explicit agenda in publishing this report, so you can quibble with the statistics in comments, but there’s no question that America remains starkly segregated. Because of this, our schools are racially segregated and disparately financed. Our neighborhoods are so segregated that Republicans had no trouble targetting Democratic precincts for voter intimidation last November.

The NFHA report finds many reasons for this segregation, among them, the continued pervasiveness of housing discrimination. In their 2004 Fair Housing Trends Report, NFHA found that over 3.7 million complaints of housing discrimination based on race (so this doesn’t include discrimination based on disability, gender or familial status) were filed in 2003. That’s over 10,000 every day. While most of these complaints occured in the rental market, a significant number still occured in sales. This likely affects not only residential segregation, but the extreme home ownership gap as reported by the Economic Policy Institute in The State of Working America 2004-2005.

However, home ownership rates vary considerably by income and race. Only 50.9% of those in the bottom quarter of the income distribution owned their homes in 2001, while 88% in the top quarter of the income distribution owned homes. Blacks and Hispanics, while slowly increasing home ownership rates, still lag behind whites. In 2003, 72.1%, 48.1%, and 46.7% of whites, blacks, and Hispanics, respectively, owned homes. There is a lot of room for improvement in home ownership rates for racial minorities and those at the bottom of the income distribution.

Of course, the NFHA report notes that the funding for organizations who enforce the Fair Housing Act by bringing claims was cut by 20% in new budget.

Regardless, suing under the FHA doesn’t solve the actual problem. Inclusionary zoning is often suggested as a possible solution, and it’s been tried with varying degrees of success in New Jersey, California and Massachusetts, although it certainly only does so much. I’m sure you all have many personal anecdotes about your own communities, and I wonder what people think can be done about residential segregation in America. I think legislative solutions (as opposed to judicial or non-governmental) would probably be most effective, but aside from zoning and passing anti-discrimination laws, I haven’t heard of many options for local governments. Besides, since local governments are often as segregated as the communities who elect them, this has to involve some cooperation between communities, and if there’s a disparity in wealth between them, it will be a hard sell to the constituents in the wealthier areas.

Any thoughts?