Robert Doyle

Week 11, Blog 9

SOCY 327

Letter to the editor

To Whom It May Concern:

Addressing the problems with the housing crisis is not as simple as people just working harder.  There are historical barriers that continue to affect racially segregated housing today.  One of the first factors in buying a house is obtaining a loan.  It is a factor that many African Americans have a lower credit score than the Caucasian population.  They have a harder time getting a loan.  If they do get a loan, their rates are higher.  Because of this problem, the African Americans may take out loans from the Federal Housing Authority which has smaller down payments and lower credit scores.  Unfortunately, they may not get the homes because of the types of loans.  What was supposed to help can become another barrier.  Minorities have a harder time getting out of poverty because of historical racism.  Predatory loans basically take the down payment but made it hard to keep up with the monthly mortgage

The other contributing factor is that housing costs have risen much faster than incomes. In the article by Michael Hobbes on the housing crisis, he states that renters’ median earnings have only gone up five percent.  Unfortunately, the rents have risen by sixty-one percent.  He also talked about homeowners.  Their earnings have increased by fifty percent.  Home prices have increased by one hundred and twelve percent. In the documentary “House Divided”, it was overwhelming to see the apartments that cost millions of dollars while there are homeless people living in the shadows.  According to this documentary, many of these apartments are owned by people from other countries and often are empty.  This is such a terrible waste of resources.  Dolly and Jenny Lenz show Norman Lear these plush apartments with marble floors and gold borders.  This is such a difference between the first woman and her child who are homeless because the landlord could get more money.  Research shows that children who grow up in poverty are much more likely to remain in poverty.  Another example from the documentary was the difference between African Americans and Caucasians in going to college.  They can graduate with the same degree, but the African American will have to make it on their salary without the support of their family.  They will have huge student loans which makes it impossible to get a loan for a decent house.

Another example of racism is redlining.  This is a system that essentially draws a red line around the neighborhoods that are more desirable.  Those outside the red line do not have the same appeal to families.  This is usually based on race.  Those who live in the poorer sections are often African Americans.  You can see an example of this in the New Deal where a lot of the resources attempting to help the poor were denied to the African Americans.  The banks refused loans to those neighborhoods which left them undeveloped.  This type of racism would prevent African Americans from going to a bank because they would not be treated fairly.  While many of the Caucasians who had fought in the same war were given advantages to have a better life.

The problem with the original letter is that even though the racial laws and systems have been removed, it is not enough. As stated previously, the housing costs are increasing faster than the wages.  The disparity between the wealthy and the poor are increasing at alarming rates.  In the documentary, New York was a prime example of this.  Landlords continue to make it miserable for the poor, elderly and those who can’t afford to pay the increased rent.  They do many things to make it impossible for people to stay.  Watching construction that prevented a child from going outside was sad.  The problem is widespread.

Much of the racial segregation is in our major cities.  This is very evident in the cities; such as, New York, New Orleans, Detroit, Oakland and Washington, D. C. to just name a few.  There are many factors that contribute to this.  The location of public housing and attitudes about public housing affects the neighborhood.  Many of the public housing is connected within the same neighborhood.  One of the fastest growing problems is the gentrification of neighborhoods.  Many poorer properties are being bought, renovated and then previous tenants can’t afford to live in those neighborhoods.

In an article by Florence Roisman, “End Residential Racial Segregation:  Build Communities that Look Like America”, she had many concrete suggestions.  She stated that the Treasury Department should monitor affirmative fair marketing for all tax credits.  HUD should increase vouchers to discourage segregation.  According to Fair Housing Act, no funding should go to any community that doesn’t support renters with lower incomes.  She also felt that Congress should add 100,000 new vouchers for low income minority families.  I agree that in order to help people, the government will have to take a stronger stand.  Housing taxes must be lowered to support minorities.  The addition of new vouchers could help subsidize the poorer communities with the rising rent.

As I stated in the beginning, this is not a simple problem.  Much of the racial segregation is based in America’s history.  It is interesting to note that many of the communities that are facing the biggest problems are in the north.  As these cities grow in wealth, the division between the poor and wealthy increases at an alarming rate.  Low cost housing is disappearing, and homelessness is increasing.  This is not a problem that can be ignored.  It is not a matter of people just working harder or getting a job.  You can’t assume someone is homeless because they don’t want to work.  I don’t believe that parents want to see their children hungry or in living the streets or shelters.  When you look at the faces of the homeless, it is a real and significant problem that we can’t ignore.

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