The Biden White House has been publicizing America’s new Juneteenth federal holiday, celebrating the end of Black slavery and the ongoing struggle for real Black independence and equality. One of the White House’s announcements may have puzzled some people: “Exclusionary Zoning: Its Effect on Racial Discrimination in the Housing Market.”
Zoning? We might understand protecting and expanding voting rights, fighting employment discrimination, or attacking white supremacist organizations (all of which the Administration is doing.). But why highlight housing and zoning policy?
Biden’s people know what they’re talking about. America’s housing and zoning policies are riddled with systemic racism. And that continuing racism feeds long-term and ongoing negative impacts on Black incomes, wealth, and equality. Whites are much more likely to inherit wealth than Blacks, and much of that inherited wealth comes from housing equity.Read more
“We kind of held the place together for a long time with duct tape and bubble gum,” said Doug Denes, who served on the board of the Branford Housing Authority for more than two decades, including as chairman, until 2019.
Attempts over the past nine years to raze and replace the three deteriorating buildings have all failed, however, because of local opposition to the housing authority’s plan to lift the age restriction for the complex. Instead of housing 39 older residents, the new complex would accommodate 126 people of all ages, including families.
Some residents and elected officials in Branford, an affluent shoreline town near New Haven, have reacted with hostility to the plan, saying it would spoil the character of the community and attract undesirable people.Read more
The Connecticut watchdog agency tasked with enforcing the state’s anti-discrimination laws on Monday will lay out the role segregation is playing to disproportionately kill Black and Latino residents during the pandemic.
“Connecticut is one of the most racially segregated states in the nation,” is how the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities begins its 51-page report. “Segregation born of zoning policies has had a particularly deadly effect during the COVID-19 pandemic. … The effects of segregation cannot only be measured in municipal demographics or statistics of income inequality, but in lives lost.”Read more
Housing segregation by race and class is a fountainhead of inequality in America, yet for generations, politicians have been terrified to address the issue. That is why it is so significant that President Biden has proposed, as part of his American Jobs Act, a $5 billion race-to-the-top competitive grants program to spur jurisdictions to “eliminate exclusionary zoning and harmful land use policies.” Mr. Biden would reward localities that voluntarily agree to jettison “minimum lot sizes, mandatory parking requirements, and prohibitions on multifamily housing.” The Biden administration is off to an important start, but over the course of his term, Mr. Biden should add sticks to the carrots he has already proposed.Read more
President Biden’s American Jobs infrastructure plan hopes to shake this country free of wasteful barriers to affordable housing — especially in booming areas.
An “innovative” competitive grant program will act to eliminate these harmful zoning and land-use practices. Mr. Biden has the right goal — reducing regulatory barriers on new construction could have wide-ranging economic benefits that exceed anything else in his $2 trillion plan. But a competitive grant program is too weak to overcome the entrenched interests — like the homeowners who control local zoning boards and the wealthy residents of cooperatives who oppose all neighborhood change — that limit building in productive places.Read more
The ongoing drive to reform land use in Connecticut may not succeed. Bringing the issue to the forefront has energized opponents as well as supporters, and since the Connecticut suburbs typically get what they want, the chances of nothing happening are significant.
But it’s been useful nonetheless in illuminating one of the state’s most deeply rooted problems and exposing attitudes that seem stuck in amber from an earlier age.
Regardless of what happens with specific bills, the state has a long way to go to achieve equity. But at least we can more clearly see where the stumbling blocks lie. And we can maybe talk more honestly about the disparities between communities that are clear to anyone who looks, even as we seem unable to solve them, or unwilling.Read more
Neighborhoods matter. As Vox’s Dylan Matthews reported, researchers Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, and Lawrence Katz found in 2016 that moving to a wealthier neighborhood not only increased the likelihood that kids would go to college, but also increased earnings by roughly 31 percent by the time they’d reached their mid-20s.
Part of what has kept Kennetha out of living in Franklin is exclusionary zoning. Single-family zoning, which means it’s illegal to build anything other than single-family homes, is prevalent in the suburb. Single-family homes are more expensive than apartments, townhomes, or duplexes, and that makes rent costly, too. Houses in Franklin go for an average price of $550,000, far above the average in Nashville of $335,000.Read more