America’s long standing effort to end housing discrimination and reduce racial segregation has been back in the news lately. The Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding Disparate Impact Claims was a partial victory for Fair Housing Advocates. However, the language in Justice Anthony Kennedy’s Opinion puts so many limitations on these claims that they may be hard to win in future cases, as described in this Article in Atlantic Magazine. Fair Housing Advocates generally applauded the decision and community developers like Enterprise Communities and Bart Mitchell from the Community Builders saw the court trying to balance the need to both expand opportunities in upper income communities while also investing to revitalize lower income neighborhoods. The Supreme Court seems to indicate that finding this balance is the job of local and state government – not the courts. Time will tell if that interpretation is correct.
A few days later, HUD issued its long awaited new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule that seeks to break down long standing patterns of segregation and fully implement the law’s mandate for local and state government to take pro-active steps to promote integration. One key benefit of the new rule is that it will compel local jurisdictions to think pro-actively about how to advance fair housing and to engage the larger community in that discussion and planning. And the Opportunity Agenda has published a useful guidebook to help them do it. At the same time, as this article in the Huffington Post makes clear, simply having the discussion and creating a plan is unlikely to end the debate over the future of our neighborhoods. While most fair housing and community development practitioners would strongly agree on the need to break down barriers for families and people of color in upper income communities, the implications for lower income communities, gentrifying neighborhoods and rural areas are not nearly as clear cut. Moreover, the tension between investing dollars in building affordable housing in upper income communities and building it in lower income communities will continue so long as there is such a large mismatch between the need for affordable housing and the financial resources available to build it.
You’ll have a chance to learn more and discuss these important developments at the upcoming Fair Housing Forum to be hosted by CHAPA and the Mel King Institute on August 6 at Boston Private Bank.