“Today’s residential segregation in the North, South, Midwest, and West is not the unintended consequence of individual choices and of otherwise well-meaning law or regulation, but of unhidden public policy that explicitly segregated every metropolitan area in the United States.”Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law
For most people of color, the rent is too damn high. Housing is a watershed issue that determines a person’s or families’ quality of life. So, why isn’t quality affordable housing a basic right for everyone in the country? In fact, there is not a place in our country where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford a two-bedroom apartment. Further, a majority (56%) of Black and Latinx (55%) renters spend more than 30% of their income on rent. This is compared to only 45% of White households experiencing this housing cost burden. Furthermore, the dream of home ownership has not been a golden ticket to prosperity for people of color. In 2017, only 41% of Black and 47% of Latinx households owned their homes, compared to 71% of White households. The cause of these disparities is very simple and straightforward: the collusion of the federal government with the corporate elite to intentionally segregate the US housing market by race.
The Oppression Economy began its segregation of housing markets through a practice called “redlining.” Through this practice, the federal government created color-coded maps to determine where private banks would be allowed to make home loans. Consistently, neighborhoods predominantly occupied by people of color were marked by red lines and labeled hazardous, meaning no loans could be made in these neighborhoods. Despite reforms and protections, today 60% of neighborhoods that were redlined remain low-income and racially segregated.
The effects of this government-sanctioned practice have led to a massive stripping of wealth from people of color. A recent study by the DuBois Center at Duke University estimated that the practice of redlining, and the alternative predatory services that filled the void left by the absence of mortgage lending, has stripped approximately $4 billion in wealth from Black communities in Chicago alone. As a result of federal housing policy, most people of color have less capital to attain quality housing, pay more of their income for housing, and gain less wealth from their investment in housing. In a Liberation Economy, access to quality, safe, and healthy affordable housing must be available to all people of color. We have the ideas to accomplish this, but must build the political power to hold our representatives accountable to our demands rather than those of the elite institutions that profit from discrimination and segregation.
Policies to Consider:
- Provide federal rental subsidies to those who pay more than 30% of their income on rent
- Provide down payment and closing costs assistance for those who currently live or grew up in formerly redlined communities
- Replace the Mortgage Interest Deduction with a fixed and refundable homeowner tax credit
- Provide cash to low-income homeowners for voluntary energy-efficient upgrades
- Fully enforce the Fair Housing Act by reinstating regulations to affirmatively further fair housing
- Ensure that federal housing programs like the Community Reinvestment Act and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit do not exacerbate gentrification
- Require banks subject to the Community Reinvestment Act provide high quality and affordable mortgage products to Black and Latinx households to close the home ownership gap
- Ensuring the Community Reinvestment Act builds wealth of people of color through more than just homeownership