Bo’s Clips: Housing Discrimination Persists

Race continues to be a barrier to housing for people of color in the US with African-Americans encountering the greatest rate of discriminatory practices. Another study finds that progress for African-American families has not significantly improved since 1965.

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Housing discrimination persists in U.S. in more subtle ways, HUD report says

By Katerinea Sokou       Washington Post      June 12, 2013

Housing discrimination remains problematic, according to a government report released Tuesday that found that although blatant acts of racial prejudice in the selling, buying and renting of homes have been declining in the United States, more subtle forms of housing bias “stubbornly persist.”

“Fewer minorities today may be getting the door slammed in their faces, but we continue to see evidence of housing discrimination that can limit a family’s housing, economic and educational opportunities,” said Shaun Donovan, secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

The nationwide HUD survey of 28 metropolitan areas showed that real estate agents and rental housing providers recommend and show fewer available homes and apartments to minority families, not only restricting their options but also increasing their costs to rent or buy.

In particular, African American renters who contact agents about recently advertised housing units are told about 11 percent fewer available units and are shown roughly 4 percent fewer units than white renters. Similarly, Asian renters are told about 10 percent fewer available units and are shown nearly 7 percent fewer units; Hispanic renters learn about 12 percent fewer units and are shown 7 percent fewer units than are whites.

Discrimination is more evident in the buying market, the report found. In particular, black home buyers who contact real estate agents about recently advertised homes for sale are informed about 17 percent fewer available homes and are shown about 18 percent fewer units than are white home buyers. Asians are informed about 15 percent fewer available homes and are shown nearly 19 percent fewer units.

In the Washington area, blacks pay $262 more than whites for rental move-in costs, according to the report. Average yearly incentives are lower by $168 for black renters, while the average first-year net cost is $402 higher for blacks compared with the cost for white renters.

About 11.6 percent of white renters in the region were told that rent was negotiable, compared with 7.2 percent of black renters, the report found.

As housing bias becomes more subtle, “the forms of discrimination documented by this study are very difficult for victims to detect,” said Margery Turner of the Urban Institute.

However, this has also raised questions about the need for such surveys, which are done every 10 years. The latest report cost about $9 million.

Donovan defended the survey, but acknowledged that HUD needs to focus on more proactive efforts to identify and address housing descrimination, especially in the sales market.


For People Of Color, A Housing Market Partially Hidden From View

By Gene Demy       NPR       June 17, 2013

We’ve written before about the wealth gap between whites and people of color — a divide that’s only grown wider over the past half decade. And since so much of Americans’ household wealth is wrapped up in homes, a significant amount of that wealth gap has been chalked up to an array of barriers to homeownership for people of color.

Here’s another sobering data point to that end: A new study has found that blacks, Latinos and Asians looking for homes were shown fewer housing options than whites who were equally qualified. And fewer options meant higher housing costs.

The study, conducted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Urban Institute (a nonpartisan think tank in Washington) used a method called “pair testing.” Two people — one person of color and one white person — called and then visited a real estate office to ask about an available property for rent or sale. Both of the pair testers told real estate agents that they had about the same income, assets and employment. Both testers were greeted politely and given appointments to look at properties. But whites were told about and shown more units. They were also more likely to be offered lower rent than their testing partners.

According to the study, the problem wasn’t regional but national. The researchers said they did this more than 8,000 times in 28 different metropolitan regions.

Here’s how their findings broke down:

Black renters learned about 11 percent fewer rental units, and black homebuyers were shown about a fifth fewer homes.

Asian renters learned about 7 percent fewer rental units, and Asian homebuyers saw about a fifth fewer homes.

Latino renters learned about 12 percent fewer units. (Interestingly, the study found that there was not a statistically significant difference in the way whites and Latino homebuyers were treated.)

“Those most serious and severe door-slamming kinds of discrimination aren’t happening so frequently,” said Margery Turner of the Urban Institute. “But it’s disappointing to conduct a study on housing discrimination in 2012 and find that it still persists.”

The researchers also found that “minority homeseekers whose ethnicity is more readily identifiable” were more likely to be discriminated against.

In a press release, the housing department said the difference was due to “blatant discrimination.” But as blatant as it may be, the researchers pointed out that this type of discrimination would be hard for anyone to detect or prove on their own. If this were happening to you during your home search, you’d be pretty hard-pressed to tell that anything was amiss — especially since testers of all races said they were treated courteously by real estate agents.

For that reason, the study’s authors said that any policies that might be used to crack down on this kind of discrimination shouldn’t kick into effect because someone issued a formal complaint. Instead, the authors suggested that local governments design more proactive ways to detect and prevent discrimination.

The authors also recommended that fair housing groups, which have historically focused on discrimination against blacks in housing, should do a better job in reaching out to Asian-American and Latino communities, especially as the country’s demographics continue to shift.


Black family progress has stalled since controversial 1965 study, report says

By Tony Pugh        McClatchy Newspapers       June 13, 2013

Many of the same social problems highlighted in a landmark 1965 study on black family structure have only worsened over the last 48 years and are now causing similar hardship for white and Hispanic families.

That’s a major finding of a new report by the Urban Institute, a liberal think tank, which re-examines the circumstances of black families nearly five decades after former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan authored the controversial report, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.”

Moynihan was an assistant secretary in the Department of Labor in the 1960s when his report cited the breakdown of the nuclear family as the main cause of problems in the black community.

The so-called Moynihan Report looked at societal disparities between white and black families and the need for government action to address them. It focused on high rates of unemployment, crime, poverty, unwed parenting and other social ills that formed a “tangle of pathologies” that steered many black families into a continuing cycle of poor education, limited job prospects and dysfunctional long-term poverty.

The report argued that the rise of female-headed black households diminished the authority of black men within their families, leaving them unable to serve as responsible fathers and providers, partly because of their limited job prospects.

Many African-American leaders criticized the report at the time, saying it was ripe with stereotypes and played down the effects of institutional discrimination and racism. Others said the report “blamed the victim” for the causes and consequences of poverty.

While African-Americans have made substantial progress in high school graduation rates, college enrollment, income and home ownership rates since the 1960s, vast disparities still remain in comparison to whites on a multitude of social measures, said Gregory Acs, director of the Urban Institute’s Income and Benefits Policy Center.

And while many social problems are still disproportionately centered in the African-American community, they have also increased in the larger non-black society.

Consider that in the early 1960s, about 20 percent of black children and just 2 to 3 percent of white children were born to unmarried mothers, while the rate of unwed Hispanic births was somewhere in between.

By 2009, nearly 75 percent of black births, 53 percent of Hispanic births and 29 percent of white births were outside of marriage, according to the report.

A decline in marriage rates has followed the same path. In 1960, more than half of all black women were married, along with more than 66 percent of Hispanic and white women. By 2010, just 25 percent of black women, 40 percent of Hispanic women and half of white women were married.

“That the decline of traditional families occurred across racial and ethnic groups indicates that factors driving the decline do not lie solely within the black community, but in the larger social and economic context,” the report finds.

Acs said that the Moynihan report’s main conclusion about the importance of traditional families has been vindicated by research that shows children from two-parent families typically fare better educationally, financially and emotionally.

“Family structure is important,” he said. “Fathers do matter.”

To improve prospects for struggling black families, the report calls for reducing structural barriers to black economic progress, enhancing the incentives for working in the mainstream economy and improving family dynamics.


FEMA Denies West Rebuilding Funds

By Dianna Wray         Houston Press       June 13, 2013

To say that the town of West has had a rough time, is pretty much understatement of the year. Since a fertilizer plant exploded, killing 15 people and leaving half the town looking like it had been wiped out by nuclear bomb, the people of the town have been struggling to rebuild and move on from the tragedy. There has been help from the federal government, but now it turns out that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is denying funds to help rebuild the town, according to the Associated Press.


FEMA has already provided a ton of money – millions – to aid the town, but the decision means the residents of West won’t be getting the funding that would help them repair their infrastructure, such as the roads, the electric lines, the sewer lines, and, you know, that school that got blown up.

Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement on the FEMA decision on Wednesday, and it’s stating the obvious to say he made it pretty clear he’s, understandably, not happy with the decision.

“The day of the West memorial service, President Obama stood in front of a grieving community and told them they would not be forgotten,” Perry stated. “He said his administration would stand with them, ready to help. We anticipate the president will hold true to his word and help us work with FEMA to ensure much-needed assistance reaches the community of West.”

What makes this worse is that the federal government — despite all those millions — overlooked the situation at the West fertilizer plant for years.

In the wake of the explosion, it was found that investigators from the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration hadn’t inspected the plant since 1985. The plant got a citation from the Environmental Protection Agency for $2,300 in 2006, and was generally overlooked by most regulatory agencies, which are understaffed and responsible for covering a huge swathe of the U.S. chemical industry.

Then, when everyone convened to actually investigate the explosion, the Chemical Safety Board, a non-regulatory agency charged specifically with investigating and determining the cause of these kinds of incidents, was kept out of the site while state and federal investigators pretty much demolished it, according to the folks over at the Chemical Safety Board, themselves, and AP

FEMA did approve more than $7 million in aid and low-interest loans, and the agency is covering 75 percent of the cost of removing the debris from the blast, but there won’t be the level of aid that communities get after FEMA has declared a “major disaster” in the area. So now West won’t be getting the federal funding to help the residents rebuild.

The AP points out it’s not unusual to deny that type of aid for this type of disaster, but that’s likely not much comfort to the people of West who are the ones actually trying to sift through the wreckage and rebuild their lives in the midst of this particular disaster.


MISD housing would serve staff with greatest financial need

By Meredith Moriak        Midland Reporter      June 16, 2013

Midland ISD employees with the greatest financial needs likely will be the first ones chosen to live in a district-owned temporary housing community, Superintendent Ryder Warren said.

Warren first discussed the idea of building a 50-home temporary housing community with the board of trustees Tuesday. Few details regarding the process have been ironed out, but trustees were all receptive to the idea and agreed they should explore all options for creating something that would help recruit and retain quality teachers.

“I like it. I’m anxious to see the numbers, the revenue and expenses,” said trustee Jay Isaacs after seeing a presentation from Parkhill, Smith & Cooper Engineer Eric West who identified two housing sites — one at the north Midland transportation office and the other on land adjacent to south Midland’s Travis Elementary — for the district to construct a temporary neighborhood of manufactured homes.

Both sites have unique challenges — four pipelines run through the Travis Elementary property and city sewer resources are not available at the bus barn site — but West believes the district could choose to build at both sites.

“If everything fell in line, and I mean everything, and you would have to get cooperation by a lot of different folks along the way, I believe by middle to late August, we could have (the home site up),” West said, noting that PSC will “run as fast as we can run with it.”

Trustees will meet at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to review schematic designs of temporary housing sites and review cost estimates for undertaking the project. They may choose to take action and choose a site, which would allow West to submit a site plan to the city and apply for a temporary use permit.

“We cannot do anything else on the site until you get that permit from the city,” West said. “I need as quickly as possible to know this is the site and this is the configuration that we’re ready to run with. Then I can get this into the city and following that we can move on water, sewer and paving.”

Only intended for temporary use, West said the streets would be caliche based with a chip seal on top.

While a final decision has not been made on how to occupy these homes, Warren said they will most likely be filled based on need.

“We have discussed creating a form like the federal form for Free and Reduced Lunch to assess financial assets. They would fill in net income, the number of dependents and be awarded based on financial needs,” Warren said. “It’s not finalized, but we believe we will rank the staff that truly need.”

The homes, 16-feet-by-64 feet and either two or three bedrooms, will be open to both single and married staff members, as well as both new and existing staff members, Warren said.

“We’ll have the initial start-up costs and even at what we hope is an affordable price for staff at $500 a month, we would recoup that immediately,” Warren said.

Though teacher housing has been an issue for many years, Warren said the issue became paramount this spring when lack of housing was mentioned during faculty meetings at every campus he visited.

“After going to about 12 schools and hearing of leases increasing by $400 and $500 a month, we knew we needed to do something,” Warren said, mentioning 120 staff members have responded to a districtwide email asking if they have “any kind of concern about the housing situation.”

Last year, seven teacher contracts were returned to MISD in July because teachers could not find affordable and adequate housing, and Warren said he fears that may happen again if MISD doesn’t do something the help.

“These were people that wanted to come here and could not find an affordable place to live so they had to return their contracts,” Warren said.

Warren said providing teachers with the option to live in low-rent district-owned housing is one way to recruit and retain teachers.

He and his wife, Jill, lived in a teacherage (a building serving as a combination school and living quarters) when he became the principal at White Face High School and a low-rent house when he accepted his first superintendent job in Thorndale ISD.

“District housing is very valuable, especially for a young person who may not have the personal equity to buy a home. They’re looking to find an affordable rental, but that doesn’t always exist and I feel this could be a very valuable asset for our mid-level and younger staff members,” Warren said, drawing on his own experiences.

Ideally, Warren said single teachers would choose to live with roommates, so the 50 units district administrators feel they can afford could serve as many staff members as possible.

“We hope this will make a huge impact on being able to attract teachers to and retain existing teachers in Midland,” Warren said. “I do believe our private builders and private industry are going to catch up … But what we do in the interim is important and we need to make a positive impact on the new staff that do want to come here and do want to be with our kids.”


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