Gentrification continues to be an oppressive if not polarizing issue in the fair housing world. While there’s nothing inherently wrong in simply investing in a neighborhood, there is a huge problem when people are displaced as a result. The reasons for that displacement range from – but are not limited to – the lack of development of affordable housing in those neighborhoods, and lack of transportation access, limited employment opportunities (especially to jobs that pay a livable wage). As a contrast to Thomas Edsall’s latest essay in the New York Times asked, “Whose Neighborhood Is it?” one might frame the issue differently by asking whose neighborhood should it be. That issue and more are covered in this week’s FH5. Thanks for reading!
One group that may suffer grave consequences due to seemingly neutral housing policies – recognized as disparate impact discrimination in fair housing law – is women. In many cities, a frightening obstacle to women’s access to housing is so-called nuisance ordinances that end up disproportionately affect women who are victims of domestic violence. “In much of the country, survivors – 85 percent to 90 percent of whom are women – are re-victimized by housing policies that disproportionately impact low-and-moderate income tenants in both privately owned and government-subsidized rentals.” [truthout, NPR]
A couple in Gainesville, Georgia, have evoked the Fair Housing Law in their lawsuit against a neighbor’s racist harassment toward them. The couple, who are Black, say they have been the target of racist abuse from a former neighbor of theirs who is white. University of Kentucky law professor Robert Schwemm commented on the lawsuit, saying, “It’s specifically a separate section of the statute that was designed to apply to people who were not housing providers – neighbours and others.” The case serves as a great reminder that housing discrimination claims are not limited only to tenant-landlord relationships, but also neighbor-to-neighbor situations. [The Independent]
A new op-ed in the Dallas Observer speculates on the spread of gentrification in the city, looking at what neighborhoods may soon succumb to the phenomenon. Jim Schutze, the scribe of the editorial, argues that the gentrifiers will not inherently be defined by their racial identities so much as the size of their wallets. That may be so, but the legacy of wealth and privilege in the housing industry has long favored white residents, rendering moot the distinction between which group of people have the most money and who belongs to which ethnicity. [Dallas Observer]
Following the gentrification beat, Mic assessed several historically Black neighborhoods in major U.S. cities and found that for the average Black family, these neighborhoods are no longer economically feasible. Looking at the average income for Black families in the United States, Mic was determined that “anything more than $873.95 per month a potential burden” for those families. The result: Black residents have been systematically priced out of their homes and forced to move from their neighborhoods in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Houston, New York, Seattle, and more. [Mic]
It’s increasingly common these days to remark on that a news headline sounds like an Onion article. Perhaps more unsettling is when an Onion headline begins to sound a bit too realistic. Take this recently published article – about gentrification, as it were -“Neighborhood Starting To Get Too Safe For Family To Afford.” It smacks a little too close to how people will compliment the effects of gentrification, often in coded language of the neighborhood now being “safer.” To wit, this comment from a resident in the article nails it: “The way things are going, we won’t even feel unsafe walking the few blocks to the grocery store in a year or two—I just don’t think we have the kind of money for that.” [The Onion]
(Photo: “Gentrification in Progress,” by MsSaraKelly. Licensed under CC BY 4.0 via Creative Commons)