To Whom It May Concern,
I am writing in response to your letter about the housing crisis that you believe is non-existent. The government that you believe we blame for that housing crisis is exactly who’s to blame for the current housing crisis. I understand that your experience was likely getting a job, saving up, and working hard to get a house, but sadly it is truly not that easy for most people in the United States due to unequal opportunities in a system that is met for certain people. In order to understand the housing crisis, it is important to go out and educate yourself by not only reading the newspaper, but maybe doing some deeper research to better understand your argument.
Although slavery is over, African American residents are still segregated in terms of class and with our current economy, purchasing homes can be a huge burden due to increasing prices of housing and wages being stagnant for several years. As you can see on this graph, throughout the years housing costs have only increased, while the income of renters has barely changed, if at all. The median cost of a home in the United States has tripled since the Great Depression and Black Americans are 50% more likely to receive subprime loans. Although loans may sound like a good thing, subprime loans are dangerous, as they are specifically meant for people who cannot pay back loans and these can double in interest when someone purchases a home. While economic problems play a large role in the housing crisis, other issues that contribute greatly to why the housing crisis exists in the United States are environmental racism and gentrification. Gentrification, the “reshaping” of American cities is being done specifically to push Black Americans out of their residents in order to create a neighborhood or area for wealthy White residents. Racism is evident in housing, as only 41% of African Americans own their own home, but 71% of White Americans own homes, with over half of Black and Latinx renters spending over half of their income on rent.
Even if someone is economically capable of buying a home, they still may struggle with this. In the documentary A House Divided, several Black Americans in New York lived in an apartment building that was being renovated with the main goal of pushing the people currently living there out of the building. In this building, construction was happening practically around the clock, people were getting sick from the dust from the construction, and complaints to the landlord constantly ignored. Another important experience to note is of James A. White Sr., who discussed his experiences and struggles with housing inequality during his time in the Air Force. When searching for a home for his family, he discussed going to several hotels and houses, but subsequently being turned away due to his race. These examples show that housing equality is an issue that is deeply imbedded in our societal system. Housing inequality has roots in government policies such as redlining. African Americans were cut from receiving legitimate mortgages due to this practice. African Americans, regardless of status, were not allowed to receive good and fair home loans due to redlining. Another example of government policy that contributed to housing inequality is The new Deal, enacted during the Great Depression by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt created the New Deal, several programs as a way to create relief to those suffering and restore prosperity to Americans in response to the Great Depression. One program, the National Housing Act of 1934, was created to encourage construction of new homes and repairs of existing structures. Although this act met needs of current homeowners during this time, it did not address any needs in terms of housing to poor populations such as African Americans living in slums. To better understand the extent of housing inequality, pair testing was used. In this test, one White person and one minority person would apply for housing and were told to document this experience. This was used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to study housing discrimination against buyers based on race.
There is one claim of yours that I would like to discuss in more detail. You claim that “If people are homeless or don’t live in a good neighborhood, they can do what anyone who cares about their family would do: they can get a job”. I completely understand your view, but there are many problems with this way of thinking. As I have mentioned throughout this letter, there are many things that contribute to inequality in housing. I understand that you were laid off and figured out how to put food on the table, and I commend you for that, but everyone has different experiences. Even if two people of different race or gender had the exact same job, someone of a marginalized group would be paid significantly less, affecting their ability to help their family in the capacity that they would like to. As I have mentioned, everyone has different experiences throughout life, this making your assumption that someone could just get a job very problematic for the people who hear this almost every day.
I understand that I have given you a lot of information, but just as understanding housing inequality is important, understanding what can be done about it is important to know as well. There are many ways you can help if you feel swayed. For example, voicing your support for affordable housing legislation can give a voice to those marginalized groups who aren’t being listened to. You can also get involved in actions such as rent strikes and eviction protests in order to help raise more awareness for housing inequality and advocate for those dealing with it, Lastly, you can donate to a cause that supports people dealing with housing insecurity. The National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel connects residents with an attorney pro bono in housing court. This is very important, as attorneys can be very expensive. You can also donate to or get involved with The National Low Income Housing Coalition and Homes for All, which focus primarily on housing justice for those struggling with housing inequality.
I hope that I have given you enough evidence to better understand the housing crisis and why it’s important in the United States. Hopefully you’ll take this as encouragement to do more research surrounding this topic. I am not trying to encourage you to believe the same as me, but I believe that a topic such as this is important to understand, as millions are dealing with this. I truly hope that you have learned something new from reading this letter and I appreciate you taking the time to read it.
A proud renter since 2015
I found this week’s blog very interesting. I really enjoyed taking what I have learned and using it as an example because this helps me better retain the information, rather than reading a book or article and reacting. The letter we read for this week was very interesting to me because there are many people who think like this still and sadly it is disappointing. To be fair, a lot of the themes mentioned in the letter are things are learned from outside sources typically, such as family or friends. I truly enjoyed this assignment and it’s good to learn that there are organizations that are trying to change the narrative surrounding housing inequality and our current housing crisis.