Politics

Affordable Housing, Racial Isolation

In this March 6, 2013 file photo, an apartment building at 1475 Madison Avenue in New York is shown. In 2013, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to lease out public housing land and allow developers to build market-rate apartment buildings on it petered out after low-income residents of the projects revolted against the idea. Now, after condemning his predecessor’s idea, current NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio also wants to use that land for development, albeit of a different kind, to build low- and moderate-income housing units and possibly a few supermarkets and retail stores. (FRANK FRANKLIN II, FILE — AP Photo)
In this March 6, 2013 file photo, an apartment building at 1475 Madison Avenue in New York is shown. (FRANK FRANKLIN II, FILE — AP Photo)

(The New York Times) — A Supreme Court ruling last week forcefully reminded state and local governments that the Fair Housing Act of 1968 forbids them from spending federal housing money in ways that perpetuate segregation. Communities across the country have been doing exactly that for decades.

Instead of building subsidized housing in racially integrated areas that offer minority citizens access to jobs and good schools, local governments have often deepened racial isolation by placing such housing in existing ghettos.

Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered this timely message in the majority opinion, ruling that the law allows plaintiffs to challenge housing policies that have a discriminatory effect — without having to prove that discrimination was intentional.

He traces the problem of racial isolation back to the mid-20th century, when restrictive covenants, redlining and government-sponsored mortgage discrimination undercut black wealth creation, accelerated ghetto-ization and walled off black families in the urban communities that exploded in the riots of the 1960s.

The ruling comes at a time of growing tension between civil rights lawyers and affordable housing developers over where low-income housing should be built and whether locations (often the path of least resistance) perpetuate segregation.

 

 

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