May 9, 2005

Can A Zip Code Be Racist?

One study says yes.
Some forms of racism are easy to detect.
A "whites only" sign on a water fountain, for example, or a racial slur shouted in someone's face.

But what about a ZIP code?

In a study released today, a Chicago-based fair housing group argues the obstacles that prevent minorities and low-income people from moving next door to more affluent - and largely white - residents is an equally damaging, if more subtle, form of racial segregation.

Throughout the suburbs, they say, communities are limiting or simply not approving affordable housing. Realtors - subconsciously or not - are steering poor people and minorities to particular towns or neighborhoods, the group says.

That the Northwest and West suburbs are largely white and middle- to upper-class isn't much of a news flash, said John Lukehart, senior associate with the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities.
The Chicago-based fair housing group,Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities was formed as a result of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1966 campaign for fair housing in Chicago.
The mission of the Leadership Council is to promote inclusive, diverse and equitable communities in the Chicago region. Over its 39-year history, the Leadership Council has worked diligently throughout the Chicago region to: enforce fair housing laws; assist minority families, including low income families, locate better housing and economic opportunities; press for public and private housing market polices and practices that better ensure equal access to affordable housing opportunities, especially in areas of economic opportunity; support sustainable community development; and promote diverse communities. The Council has focused its energies on institutional, structural change and recognized housing, where one lives, as a crucial point of access to other economic and life opportunities.
The Leadership Council study confirm the Chicago suburbs with ample affordable house are home to some of the poorest schools, and lowest-paying jobs and highest poverty rates.
There's a widening gap between those towns with the most affordable housing and those that have better employment and educational opportunities -- a gap largely caused by racial discrimination, restrictive zoning and Illinois' school funding system, according to a report released today by the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities.
The report highlights how few housing options are available to households earning $25,000 a year or less. The study defined affordable housing as single-family homes with a market value of $75,434 or less and apartments with a monthly rent up to $638. [...]

Blacks and Hispanics in the Chicago area live almost entirely in low-opportunity areas -- as measured by factors such as transportation, education, crime, pollution and municipal services, using figures from the 2000 U.S. census, according to the report.

Another indicator, job creation, revealed that the highest-opportunity areas created 34 times as many jobs between 1995 and 2000 as did the poorest areas. Frankfort was the only Southland town in the highest-opportunity category, one shared by such suburbs as Downers Grove, Winnetka and Barrington Hills.
The study also shows ....
Included in the research was data such as average ACT scores, amount of money spent per pupil on education, combined property tax wealth per household, the median year that housing units were built, number of jobs, mean travel time to work and park land per capita.
Each town received an overall score and was ranked from "highest opportunity" - meaning the communities where residents have the best chance of living a healthy and successful life - to "lowest opportunity," or those towns where schools are poorly funded, asthma rates are highest and jobs are scarce.

The study's authors then looked at where the highest concentrations of blacks, Hispanics and residents living in poverty are.

The result: Those minority groups live almost exclusively in the communities deemed least desirable, or with the lowest opportunities.
Leadership Council proposes requiring a minimum amount of affordable housing in any new development, sharing wealthy suburbs' sales and property tax revenue with poorer communities, and making school funding less dependent on property taxes to bridged gap between affordable housing and quality of life.

Lukehart said one way to shrink the divide is for municipalities to promote better regional planning instead of competing with each other for business growth. The mad scramble for tax revenue has led to an emphasis on commercial development rather than housing growth, which has resulted in less affordable housing, Lukehart said.
Illinois' system for financing local schools relies heavily on property tax. Because of that, local officials and residents view affordable housing as leading to higher tax bills, and they tend to resist allowing it into the community, Lukehart said. More housing units mean more schoolchildren and a greater need for schools to increase their property tax levies, he said.

If and when the state ever restructures its school-funding formula, another barrier to affordable housing in high-opportunity communities will be removed, Lukehart said.
Naperville City Manager Peter Burchard maintain sharing funds doesn't solve problems.

Right now, communities contribute money to regional transportation such as the Chicago Transit Authority. Yet the CTA is in financial turmoil, Burchard noted.
"Money isn't the answer," he said.

In the Leadership Council study, Naperville was ranked in the second-highest category of places to live, getting particularly high scores for its schools and "quality of life" issues.

According to the 2000 census, the city's population is about 3 percent black and 3percent Hispanic. About 10percent of residents are Asian.

Burchard said Naperville has an affordable housing stock of almost 20 percent if "affordable" is determined using typical DuPage County housing prices rather than those of the entire Chicago region.

He also took issue with parts of the study that indicated Naperville and similar communities don't exactly roll out the welcome mat for poor people or minorities.

"People need to get out here and visit these communities before they judge these communities," he said. "We're a great place to live for anyone who wants to be a part of this community.

"You don't become a great community without being an open community."
You can read the whole report at this link -- Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities.

do not live in Naperville, Illinois but I do have few family members who live there. I live in similar town Oswego. Both Oswego and Naperville are mostly middle to upper class white communities. On the street I live in, there is only two Hispanic house holds counting my family.

My parents went to a Hispanic realtor to sale our old house in Aurora, which is a diverse town with Hispanics, whites, African-Americans and other ethnic group, and to find a new home to fit the needs of a person who is in a wheelchair. The realtor did not show my parents houses in Oswego or Naperville, most of the houses were in Aurora. My parents went on there own to those communities and found a affordable lot to build a new house to fix my needs in Oswego. I do not think the reason was racism why the realtor did not show us houses in Oswego, it was more out of economic class.

I seen the housing boom first hand, corn fields are turning into housing starting at $175,000 and up without no affordable housing/apartments being built for lower classes people in this community. I do see the housing segregation when I drive from my house to Aurora, and back.

My father does not agree with the proposes of Leadership Council to bridged the gap between affordable housing and quality of life. The mostly out of personal economic reason, he like the community my family live in, does not want his taxes to be raise or shared with other communities.

I agree with the finding of Leadership Council but finding solution to the problems is the difficult part.


Post a Comment

<< Home