I He(art) Justice 2017: Fair Housing

Emphasis Area: Fair Housing

Problem

Fair housing is another issue that spans many of our projects because we know that where you live matters. When Texans live in higher opportunity areas – neighborhoods that offer access to good jobs, safe schools, healthy living environments and sound infrastructure – families do better. But when housing systems – such as where public housing gets built or who gets access to funds and resources – are tied to discrimination and disinvestment, families and communities suffer. The Fair Housing Act requires that state and local government spend federal funding consistent with civil rights laws that protect against discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, and familial status. 

Solution

Texas Appleseed works to ensure that state and local entities understand their systemic obligations under the Fair Housing Act, and steps in to bring enforcement action when needed. We’ve won important victories that ensured predominantly low-income, minority neighborhoods received their fair share of disaster recovery funding, and that public housing destroyed by hurricanes was rebuilt in higher opportunity neighborhoods.

Background Statistics

  • Zip code is destiny. Where you are born predicts everything from your educational achievement to your life expectancy. For example, studies show that children who moved to low-poverty, higher opportunity neighborhoods before their teens were more likely to attend college and earn 31 percent more than their peers who could not move out of high poverty neighborhoods. 
  • Testing in a 2012 Allentown, PA, study showed that real estate agents treated White and minority homebuyers differently in 73 percent of cases, steering White buyers to the suburbs and people of color to the city, even when they each had the same job history and income. 
  • Residential segregation equals school segregation. In 2002-2003, 1 in 6 Black students and 1 in 9 Latino students attend schools that are at least 99% children of color. Seventy-one percent (71%) of all Black public school students, and 73% of all Latino public school students, attended high-poverty schools during the same time period, while only 28% of White students attended a high-poverty school.

Personal Story 

Joe (not his real name) lives in a termite-infested apartment building called Concord Homes in Beaumont, Texas. The public-housing property also sits next to environmental hazards, including rail lines, a hot asphalt plant, and a concrete-crushing plant that spews out dust and residue onto people's windows and porches. Just about every resident of Concord Homes is Black – the average annual income there is $6,716 per household, and the neighborhood is 80% Black and poverty-concentrated. Concord Homes is within half a mile of four other public housing developments. The Beaumont Housing Authority received $12.5 million of federal money to build new homes for the people who live there, but the city refused to build anywhere except its current location, which we challenged. Rebuilding in a historically segregated and poverty-stricken area, instead of in a higher opportunity neighborhood, does not meet fair housing standards, perpetuating segregation and denying low-income families of color choices about where they live. The Housing Authority turned down millions of dollars rather than desegregate – all of this occurred not in 1965, but in 2016. 

Additional Interest Areas

Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Helping Homeless Youth

Criminal Justice Reform

Fair Financial Services

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