I was intrigued by the concept of neighborhood segregation because as an African-American, I wanted to learn more about the history of oppression that African-Americans in America had faced. I also wanted to learn more about the lasting impact of these discriminatory policies and legislations that targeted African-Americans. I also want to know how much neighborhood segregation has contributed to modern day systemic racism. Also, growing up, I wondered why “the hood” was always portrayed in the media as lower class and exclusively African-Americans. As I grew up, I was able to make the connection between “the hood” and neighborhood segregation. Without neighborhood segregation, there would be no “hood” to portray. Finally, since I attend a very prestigious and predominantly white private school in Oakland, which heavily contrasts the vastly diverse city of Oakland, I was interested in what impact such a school would have on the communities in Oakland. Read my personal interest essay here.
How It Started
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) was established to help America recover during the housing crisis after the Great Depression. The initial goal was to revitalize the American housing market, and they were able to accomplish this goal for white Americans, but at the expense of minority citizens. The FHA discriminated against African-American communities by “improving” the maps that the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation created to assist lenders by making the identity of a community and/or individual be a determining factor of whether or not a neighborhood safe to insure mortgages. These disproportionately affected minority communities because the areas that were predominantly black or Latino were considered hazardous to insure and were marked in red while areas that were predominantly white were often considered safe to insure and were marked in green, and this is where the term “redlining” originated. This was the first instance of mortgage lending discrimination, also known as redlining in America (Aaronson). Read more about redlining here.
How It Manifests Today
The solution may seem simple, but simply investing in these impoverished communities could actually lead to more harm because it has a trend of displacing low-income residents, also known as gentrification. Gentrification is the “process of neighborhood change that includes economic change in a historically disinvested neighborhood —by means of real estate investment and new higher-income residents moving in – as well as demographic change – not only in terms of income level, but also in terms of changes in the education level or racial make-up of residents” (Urban Displacement Project).
On surface level, gentrification seems beneficial to these communities because it provides job opportunities and economic surplus to the area, but the rising taxes, and inflated rent costs makes it almost impossible for low-income residents to maintain their current livelihood. Not only do these circumstances provide a detrimental inconvenience of commute, the lack of contact between demographics allows for gentrifying residents to ignore and continue the exploitation of low income families (Day). Also, the jobs that gentrification creates are usually inaccessible to those who originally live in the neighborhood because they are intended for wealthy and educated individuals who are usually not located in these communities (Hwang and Lin). Read more about the current manifestation of the problem here.
FOR NOW SOLUTIONS
There aren’t many things an individual can do about the long standing residential segregation that has been affecting minorities communities for generations, but there are a few solutions that one could partake in, so they do not contribute to the gentrification of these communities.
First, people should actively research all new developments in their communities to make sure that they prioritize the wants and needs of the community and either advocate for these developments or against them depending on your research.
Secondly, when moving into a neighborhood, one should take into consideration, the where and why they are moving into that community. One should research the history of the city and why there are suddenly new developments and job opportunities, especially when one is moving into a previously impoverished area. Questions that could be asked before moving are: Does this area have a history of residential segregation? Who do these new job opportunities intend to attract? Can my movement hurt families of those who are already located there? Etc.
Finally, One should be active politically and always advocate for policies, bills and propositions that benefit those who are victims of housing segregation.
There are many steps that can be taken by the government that will reduce the harm of and possibly eradicate residential segregation.
Firstly, federal programs like the Community Reinvestment Act should be modernized and expanded to include non-bank institutions, so they have better incentive to put investments towards low income communities that need it. These programs would also encourage minority groups to become homeowners which would lower the homeownership gap and help low income families build wealth (Richardson).
Second, give low income communities an outlet to learn about local developments and express their wants and needs to those making developments in their communities, so developers would have to respect their priorities and concerns (Smith).
Finally, public housing should be created through taxation of the wealthy who perpetuate this housing crisis. Public housing would provide affordable housing to low income families without much fear of displacement (Day). These homes should be built outside areas that were previously redlined to reduce concentrated areas of poverty (Richardson).
Gentrifications and residential segregation is a very multifaceted problem as a whole, but that doesn’t mean it is a hopeless struggle. They may seem few, but there are ways we can help as individuals, so we should find out how we can help our communities, so we can live in a more equitable America.
Due to neighborhood segregation being a long standing systemic issue in America, I found it difficult to find viable micro solutions, or actions an individual can take, that would make a noticeable impact. What steps do you think we can make as individuals that would help this issue? I would love to receive feedback on my solutions as well. Why do you think that this issue doesn’t seem like a priority to many politicians and legislators? And how do you think we can effectively bring this problem to their attention?
Thank you for reading my project. I would appreciate any form of constructive feedback, so I can improve for next time.