Should Affordable Housing Prioritize Those Already Living In The Neighborhood?

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Public housing stands in Brooklyn on June 11, 2018 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Public housing stands in Brooklyn on June 11, 2018 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

A study conducted as part of a lawsuit in the City of New York found part of its affordable housing policy might deepen segregation. But policy advocates say that it can also prevent displacement borne from gentrification.

We look at the balancing act when it comes to affordable housing across the country.


J. David Goodman, covers city government, including lobbying and fundraising, for The New York Times. (@jdavidgoodman)

Vicki Been, deputy mayor of Housing and Economic Development for New York City. (@VickiBeen)

Ed Goetz, director of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs at the University of Minnesota (@curaumn). Author of "New Deal Ruins: Race, Economic Justice, and Public Housing Policy" and "Clearing the Way: Deconcentrating the Poor in Urban America."

Christie McCravy, executive director the Louisville Metro Affordable Housing Trust Fund. (@LAHTF)

From The Reading List

New York Times: "What the City Didn’t Want the Public to Know: Its Policy Deepens Segregation" — "For more than two years, lawyers for New York City have fought to keep secret a report on the city’s affordable housing lotteries, arguing that its release would insert an unfavorable and 'potentially incorrect analysis into the public conversation.'

"The report was finally released on Monday, following a federal court ruling, and its findings were stark: The city’s policy of giving preference to local residents for new affordable housing helps perpetuate racial segregation.

"White neighborhoods stay white, black neighborhoods black, the report found.

"The findings by Andrew A. Beveridge, a sociology professor at Queens College, presented a far different picture than the one offered by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has touted his record on housing as he runs for president.

"Indeed, they suggested that Mr. de Blasio’s vast expansion of affordable housing might well come with an asterisk: It is deepening entrenched racial housing patterns."

City Of New York: "Rebuttal In Response To Report That City Housing Policy Increases Segregation" — "The City’s Affordable Housing Overwhelmingly Serves African Americans and Hispanics:

"The City’s affordable housing projects overwhelmingly serve people of color, even in majority white areas. African Americans and Hispanics are awarded affordable housing through the City’s housing lottery in disproportionate numbers in their favor compared to their representation among New Yorker City residents with incomes would make them eligible for the City’s affordable housing lotteries. (See Appendix F.) Dr. Beveridge ignored this obvious analysis, choosing instead to conduct unnecessarily complicated tests that fail to actually measure what he purports to measure."

NPR: "How 'Equal Access' Is Helping Drive Black Renters Out Of Their Neighborhood" — "The city of San Francisco is in a quandary. Like many big cities, it faces an affordability crisis, and city leaders are looking for a way to build housing to help low- and middle-income residents stay there.

"But one proposal to give current residents of a historically African-American neighborhood help to do that has run afoul of the Obama administration.

"Consider the case of Mack Watson. At 96, he is a vision of elegance in his freshly pressed ribbon collar shirt, vest and sports coat. He has called San Francisco home since 1947.

"'Nothing is like San Francisco. Like the song, I lost my heart in San Francisco,' he says minutes after finishing lunch at the Western Addition Senior Center on a recent day.

"But Watson lost more than his heart in San Francisco. He is among thousands of black San Franciscans who are being displaced by gentrification. He can still recall when this neighborhood, the Western Addition, was a hub of African-American life.

"'The mom and pop businesses. They're all gone. Nightclubs and restaurants, all that stuff. Theaters. They all gone,' says Watson."

New York Daily News: "Perpetuating a segregated city: Affordable housing lotteries wind up excluding many low-income black and Latino New Yorkers" — "It's been more than two years since a little-noticed lawsuit against the de Blasio administration put a spotlight on New York's longstanding, misguided habit of allocating affordable housing in ways that keep our neighborhoods racially segregated.

"The mayor should fix the problem pronto.

"The case of Winfield vs. City of New York was brought in 2015 by black families seeking affordable housing in Manhattan. They sued to end city's policy of giving strong preference for scarce units to applicants currently living within a particular community board where new units are being built.

"Politicians and activists take as gospel the idea that people living somewhere near a new building with affordable housing should get first crack at moving into it. For local politicians, it's an easy sell."

Law Street Media: "Equal Access?: Neighborhood Preference and Housing Lotteries" — "Affordable, safe housing is a huge concern for all populations. Traditionally, neighborhoods have been segregated along socioeconomic lines. However, even in modern cities, policy attempts to integrate communities through equal access housing have failed. Housing lotteries, through neighborhood preference programs, are now being employed by cities across the country to keep families in their neighborhoods.

"Unfortunately, those same lotteries are meeting a pushback from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which has stated that neighborhood preference and housing lotteries violate federal fair housing laws. In an interesting turn of events, the populations that fair housing laws are designed to protect are now being utilized to keep them out of their home neighborhoods. This comes as a surprise to many supporters of these anti-displacement programs, as the legislation was created to assist victims of segregation, not perpetuate it."

San Francisco Chronicle: "Neighborhood-preference program for affordable housing proves effective" — "A San Francisco program meant to protect people in close-knit neighborhoods from being uprooted by gentrification and soaring housing costs appears to be working some two years after it began.

"City supervisors created the Neighborhood Resident Housing Preference plan in late 2015. It requires 40 percent of units in new affordable housing developments funded by the city and private sources to be reserved for people living in the supervisorial district where the projects are built or within a half-mile of them."

Grace Tatter produced this hour for broadcast.

This article was originally published on July 18, 2019.

This program aired on July 18, 2019.



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