Column: Toward decent housing for all

Ryan Bobst

Each April, we celebrate Fair Housing Month as an opportunity to reaffirm our nation’s commitment to ending housing discrimination through the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968. After all, it was a long and perilous journey to passage after initially dying in Congress in 1966. Not giving up on equal rights and protections, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in his "The Other America" speech at Stanford University in 1967, "It’s much easier to guarantee the right to vote [in reference to the 1965 Voting Rights Act] than it is to guarantee the right to live in sanitary, decent housing conditions." It was only seven days after Dr. King’s assassination that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act on April 11, 1968.

The Fair Housing Act has two main purposes. First, it prohibits discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, (and as amended) disability, and family status. Second, it strives to reverse housing segregation and promote truly integrated and balanced living patterns. The Fair Housing Act was the federal government’s first major step toward reversing decades of government-sanctioned housing discrimination.

Reflecting on the 54 years since its passage draws out some serious questions on the effectiveness of the Fair Housing Act. Disproportionality, or the over- or under-representation of a particular group experiencing a particular outcome, is still affecting our neighbors who identify as Black in housing.

Opportunity Starts at Home (2022) notes that in 1968, around 66% of white households owned their own home while Black homeownership stood at about 44%. Today, the rate of white homeownership increased to 71%, while Black homeownership has stagnated, remaining at 44%.

The 2019 Regional Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (Davenport, Moline, and Rock Island) shows that calculations of residential segregation among Black households are considered moderately segregated by the statistical measure. All other racial and ethnic groups have low levels of residential segregation. Residential segregation is also listed as a barrier by focus group participants to fair housing in the Tri-Cities Housing Needs Assessment of 2020 (Davenport, Moline, and Rock Island). Though Black residents are estimated at 12% of the total population in our community, 41.7% of Black renter households experienced at least one housing problem (cost-burden, overcrowding, and lack of plumbing) compared to the 29.3% of all renter households experiencing a housing problem. A total of 70.5% of Black renter households experienced cost-burden or paid more than 30% of their income on housing expenses. This compares to only 31.6% of white renter households experiencing cost-burden in the Quad-Cities.

The level of disproportionality extends to people experiencing homelessness in Scott County. Humility Homes and Services, Inc. partnered with the Institute for Community Alliances to complete an in-depth data review between January 2017 and October 2021. This analysis of nearly 5,000 people found that people who identify as Black are 5.86 times more likely to enter the homeless system in Scott County than people of any other race or ethnicity. Not only are these disproportionate experiences the outcome of systemic racism, but they also illustrate the unfulfilled promises of the Fair Housing Act.

So where does the Fair Housing Act go from here?

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Strategic Plan (2022) proposes to increase equity in housing on a systemic level – including supporting underserved communities, ensuring access to and increasing the production of affordable housing, promoting homeownership, advancing sustainable communities, and strengthening internal capacity.

These changes can help the Fair Housing Act fulfill its promises. Yet actions rather than words will start moving communities towards guaranteeing the right to live in sanitary decent housing conditions – as Dr. King reflected 55 years ago.

Help our community move forward by joining the QC Housing Council’s Silos to Solutions workgroup.

Ryan Bobst is strategic initiatives and grants manager at Humility Homes and Services, Inc.

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Region: Northern,Columns,City: Quad Cities,Region: QC,Opinion

via The Quad-City Times

April 17, 2022 at 09:47AM

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