Expanding affordable housing opportunities for all people; fighting inequality

When change is in the air, open all the windows!

    A new HBO Miniseries dramatizes fair housing conflict from the 1970's, funny thing is: the issues have not changed much. "The Fair Housing Fight in 'Show Me a Hero' Is Happening in Every City in America" says CityLab.  Washington Post columnist Carlo Rotella chimes in, "But will the public tune in?" Polls suggest a strong "maybe".  Gallup reports that 63% of Americans see income inequality as a serious social problem that government should address.  What is not as clear is whether Americans see concentrations of poverty as a cause of inequality. When it comes to housing and communities, the struggle is between mainstream values (social equality) and personal self interest (NIMBY). "Sure low income and minority households should have access to schools, jobs, and safe and healthy conditions, but not in my neighborhood."  Voices helping to shape the connection between social isoation and inequality include celebrity urbanologist Richard Florida.
    Two generations after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, and after a decade of studies showing that concentrations of poverty are harmful to children, and after three years of the public recognition that "inequality" plagues our economic system, Americans are slowly waking from the social amnesia induced by Presidents Nixon's Southern strategy, Reagan's "Morning inAmerica", the Bushes and two moderate southern Democrats, Carter and Clinton.

    So where from here? Since early this summer, RHINO has argued that civic leaders (for example, RHINO's Inclusion Partners) should open the civic windows to the changes that are sweeping the country. Take a page from Rahm Emmanuel who said "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. … This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not before." Many Ohio communities have seized the opportunity to revisit the dream of social equality.   Too many more are still hiding behind "business as usual" work plans.
  Because change is in the air, inclusion Partners have opportunities to push the discussion forward. Just keep in mind that partisan politics is the third rail of true social change. Keep your inclusion efforts local, personal, and impactful. So far political conservatives have argued against inclusion policies by claiming that they want to defend local authority (this generation's form of "states rights").  RHINO says:  call their bluff!  Create local inclusion policies!
    For advocates and tenant activists, the work plan is a little different. Local actions to mobilize low income households and publicize the barriers to social inclusion could amplify the urgency of the needs and give voices to the voiceless victims of inequality. Maybe if/when Black Lives Matter takes on the issue of the human costs of social isolation (including mass Incarceration), low income households can become more directly engaged. Advocates and activists can also work to mobilize other socially isolated groups (eg. organizations that represent persons with disabilities and LGBT rights organizations) to dramatize barriers to their inclusion.  Until the voiceless can speak for themselves, advocates and activists will be the key to identifying the overt and covert barriers that perpetuate social isolation. The Community Action League in California and the Coalition for Economic Survival, for examples, played important roles in amplifying the voices of suburban Housing Choice Voucher households who were being harassed by Los Angeles County deputies and local officials. Listen to CES Director Larry Gross confront Mayor Rex Farris on the radio in 2012. “Lancaster officials seem to be wishing that their city was located in 1963 Mississippi, instead of 2012 LA County.”

    This fall, when the state of Ohio begins work on a new Consolidated Plan would be a great time for advocates to identify those barriers and give voice to the voiceless...and for inclusion Partners to recommend new strategies to fight inequality and promote inclusion. Can you imagine a coaltion of civic leaders, advocates, and grass roots citizens united beneath the banner of "Tear down those walls"?

 Inclusion in the news
Startling case of voucher discrimination and harassment in LA County  RHINO has not seem any other coverage of this important story. This past weekend CityLab reports: "A recent Justice Department complaint reveals the county colluded with two cities and the sheriff’s department to push black, Section 8 families out of certain neighborhoods.Michelle Ross moved her family to the north Los Angeles County city of Palmdale in 2009 hoping to put her children in an environment where she no longer had to worry about crime. She was welcomed by her neighbors when she first arrived. But when the neighbors found out that Ross was a participant in the federal Section 8 housing voucher program, she found herself with new worries. She became the target of bullying and harassment—not just from neighborhood residents, but from the police as well. What Ross did not know was that Palmdale elected officials had colluded with the L.A. county’s housing authority and sheriff’s department to scare African-American families in the voucher program out of the city. So says a Fair Housing Act complaint filed on July 20 by the U.S. Department of Justice against the county and Palmdale, which was settled the same day. The complaint and settlement also involve the neighboring city of Lancaster, which was accused of employing the same discriminatory tactics. " Cops, vigilantes sounds like the old South.  Read the justice department press release here.

Need more rental housing related news?

head for RHINO's What's News

Why is stable rental housing a Fair housing issue?
Housing advocates know that Fair Housing and Affordable Rental Housing have been in "silos" for decades.  Here's why that's wrong:
  • stable rental housing anchors diverse communities
  • households in protected classes are disproportionately in rental housing
  • households in protected classes need affordable housing because of lower household incomes.

Turns out that the Pope is not just a climate wonk

In his encyclical on climate, Pope Francis had some things to say about affordable housing, segregation and urban design “How beautiful those cities which overcome paralyzing mistrust, integrate those who are different and make this very integration a new factor of development! How attractive are those cities which, even in their architectural design, are full of spaces which connect, relate and favour the recognition of others!” 
Of course he shouldn't be spouting off on these issues because he's not a sociologist, right?  
Read more here