Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Change in Scope

Race and Place is now Housing Policy. The blog will venture outside of fair housing policy and include policy regarding affordable housing, tenants' rights, sustainable development, and other housing advocacy topics. For a specialized fair housing site see the Fair Housing Action Blog.

I have also recruited contributors who have more experience in the new subject areas. Because this is still a Blogspot blog, we don't have the option of categories. But, if Blogspot incorporates them we will definitely include them in the future to allow for topical searches.

The contributors will hail mostly from the Chicago area. So, a Chicago or Illinois perspective might show up. Likely, many of the examples will use Chicago data. However, the primary aim is still to address federal housing policies providing reliable, reasonable, and respectable comments and news.

Expect some updates to the links on the right and a steadier stream of entries by the end of September as contributors increase.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

You Might Make a Difference

You can write in to Senate Democrats and tell them what you would ask John Roberts. I'm guessing they're looking for simpler questions but mine was:

In much of America, structural inequality directly and indirectly frustrates the rights of individuals. For example, in many metropolitan regions, patterns of racial and ethnic segregation create a structural barrier to community development and personal improvement including access to quality education, employment, and government services. These patterns did not appear out of thin air. Individuals and governments shaped these patterns over decades. The federal Fair Housing Act and Amendments of 1988 (as well as the Community Reinvestment Act of 1973 and other federal laws) requires the federal, state, and local governments to affirmatively further fair housing. Yet, governments at all levels do not seriously engage in affirmative measures. One response to this is to bring cases against governments charging them with policies and practices that have disproportionately negative effects on minorities, families, and persons with disabilities. Given that the facts of a case proved a government did have a policy with a disparate impact on protected persons, what is your opinion of whether federal law allows for such a lawsuit where an individual sues a government for structural inequality that leads to restrictions on individual rights?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Familial Status is a Protected Class

[Cross posted at Infinite Diablogue]

David Bernstein at The Volokh Conspiracy tries to understand fair housing law regarding advertising. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt about his argument since he doesn't clearly state it. He thinks he's making a logical argument by pointing out that, for instance, professionals and non-professionals are not protected by the Fair Housing Act.

He complains it should be okay to have ads seeking professionals, students, or stating a preference for a number of people. I'll quote his complaint:

Is it illegal to discriminate against non-professionals? non-Northeastern students? people who like to sleep one in a bed? loud partiers? I suppose these are supposed to be "code words" for discriminatory classfications, but you'd have to be smarter than I am to figure out what, as it strikes me that professionals, partiers, medical workers, etc., come from all groups.

The problem is that he doesn't take into account who is excluded by these descriptions. Using the terms "professionals" is often used as code to deny housing to families with children. The same goes for "students." Both could violate local laws that protect seniors as well.

In an ad he cites advertising a four bedroom place great for 4 or 5 people, the exclusion here is families with children again. HUD operates on a general consideration that 2 persons per bedroom is a reasonable occupancy standard. That would mean up to eight people could live in the unit. Limiting the occupancy to 5 people would exclude families with 6 to 8 persons.

Few people know that the Act protects families with children. It has since 1988 when the Act was amended to include families with children and persons with disabilities.

He complains about a couple other things as well, including wondering why he can't give out racial demographics to prospective renters. This really has to do more with steering people into segregated neighborhoods. The are a number of cases where real estate agents and property owners steered people by race (and other protected classes) into different neighborhoods or buildings. Thus, real estate agents and landlords are discouraged from giving out this type of information.

Bernstein, like many others, seems to be of the mind that discrimination doesn't really occur much anymore. But, it does occur often. In 2000, HUD found that discrimination occurred in 20% of housing transactions by African Americans and Latinos throughout the Chicago region. (And, this is a low estimate based on the protocols of the research survey. I worked on the survey in Chicago and Albuquerque. It did not include incidents where a minority person did not get a call back from a housing provider but a white person did get a call. It also tested for discrimination against African Americans in predominantly African American neighborhoods and against Latinos in predominantly Latino neighborhoods. Both practices lowered the rate of measured discrimination.)

Nationally, In 2004, there were 27,319 complaints of housing discrimination filed with non-profit fair housing centers, HUD, and DOJ. Of these complaints 31% were for disability, 26% were race, 13% familial status, 12% national origin, 6% sex, 2% religion, 1% color, 9% other local protected classes (sexual orientation, source of income, marital status, etc.)

Meanwhile, racial and ethnic segregation continues to be a dominant housing pattern, especially throughout cities east of the Mississippi River. These patterns cannot be accounted for simply by considering economics. (i.e. suburban Atlanta)

There has been progress. But, it isn't as though discrimination is gone or even minimal.