Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Latest on Fair Housing

In the last couple of days I've run across some interesting mainstream journalism on fair housing issues - not something that normally gets a lot of play.  But I thought this blog's readers would be interested.

The first is Brentin Mock's essay on CityLab "How Los Angeles County Furthered Racist 'Fair-Housing' Practices," about how two southern California jurisdictions colluded with the LA County Sherriff's office to push black families out of their communities through "intrusive and intimidating compliance checks," according to the Justice Deparment's findings. Mock is very critical of both the local governments' and the sherriff's conduct.  He also refers to HUD's newly promulgated fair housing rules. . .

An issue also covered in a short Salon interview with Rutgers University's Paul Jargowsky, who calls the rules "long overdue" and yet also "only a start."  Most interesting to me in Jargowsky's criticism of the lack of diversity in housing types in the suburbs:

I certainly think that to the extent that we’re spending public money on these units, they should be done in a way that advances access to opportunity and makes the most effective use of the public dollar. But the biggest story here, in the end, is really the private market and exclusionary zoning,  and discrimination also in the private housing market. That’s the big one, and this won’t really  change that. I’m certainly in favor of what HUD is doing now with this rule, and I think it will make  some difference at the margin, but it’s not a big enough program overall to move the needle very much. . .

There has to be some overall constraint on pace of suburban growth, and the second thing would be that every suburban jurisdiction, every town and place that’s growing, has to include in its housing stock as it develops a full range of housing types that would accommodate roughly the distribution of income that exists within the metropolitan area. If you did that, within decades, new housing would accommodate a greater degree of racial and economic integration than it does now.

Yet another set of reminders, if we needed them, that providing safe, affordable housing remains a vexing issue in today's complicated world.

Jamie Baker Roskie

Affordable Housing, Density, Local Government, Subdivision Regulations, Suburbs | Permalink


I disagree with Jargowsky, at least to an extent. The "biggest story" in my opinion is exclusionary zoning ordinances. The market would provide much more affordable housing, and more diverse housing, if developers were merely allowed to do so under existing zoning ordinances. Developers aren't stupid- they will develop the most profitable way that zoning ordinances allow, and that's usually cookie-cutter sprawl. Many communities consciously enact exclusionary zoning. They don’t want low- to moderate-income families. Although the “evil developer” is portrayed as the culprit, the real target of exclusionary zoning is school-aged children. A local government’s biggest expense in the U.S. is public education. Many communities zone to exclude school children. Not so pretty when it’s striped down, is it?

Posted by: Jesse Richardson | Jul 30, 2015 6:54:44 AM