How to Make Fair Housing Truly Fair

How to Make Fair Housing Truly Fair, Jonathan Zasloff, Slate, April 11, 2018, available here

On its 50th anniversary, the Fair Housing Act remains the most spectacularly successful disappointment in civil rights history.

As an anti-discrimination statute, the FHA has triumphed beyond the wildest dreams of its framers. Housing discrimination was routine and ubiquitous in 1968; now, according to the most comprehensive surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, it affects only a small percentage of home sales and apartment rentals to black Americans, and in home sales has ceased to exist for Latinos.

But as an anti-segregation effort, the FHA has failed miserably. Scholars estimate segregation by the “dissimilarity index,” which measures how many members of one race in a neighborhood or metro area would have to move to achieve complete integration: 1 is complete segregation, and 0 is complete integration. Although dissimilarity indices have decreased in many metro areas (particularly in the Sun Belt), they remain stubbornly high in areas with high black populations, approaching and sometimes surpassing .85 in areas such as Milwaukee; Gary, Indiana; Detroit; New York; Chicago; and Newark, New Jersey.

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