How We've Affirmatively Furthered Fair Housing


Over the last several decades, there have been many efforts to affirmatively further fair housing. These efforts have ranged from collaborations between the federal government and cities to create subsidized housing vouchers for low-income families to inclusionary zoning, the practice under which a municipality requires or creates incentives for developers to allocate a share of their housing units as affordable for people with low or moderate incomes. Many of these endeavors have met with significant success, including enabling low-income families to move to higher- opportunity neighborhoods and seeing their children reap the benefits; keeping cities affordable for working-class households; and passing laws that bring more people, such as Section 8 voucher holders or transgender persons, under civil rights protections. The limitations and failings of these efforts are also instructive. Taken together, they hold important lessons for affirmatively furthering fair housing.

Voucher to Opportunity

1. Gautreaux: Expanding Opportunity in Chicago

In 1966, a group of African-American tenants and applicants in public housing filed a class action lawsuit against the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and HUD.64 The plaintiffs asserted that, as public housing residents and voucher holders, CHA and HUD were placing them in low-opportunity, segregated African-American communities to “avoid the placement of Negro families in white neighborhoods.”65 The federal courts agreed that the practice violated African Americans’ constitutional rights, and ordered CHA to build its next 700 family units, and thereafter at least 75 percent of new family public housing, in predominantly white areas.66 Federal courts also: ordered CHA to change its tenant assignment and site selection procedures; found that HUD violated civil rights law by assisting CHA’s racially discriminatory housing program; and ordered both CHA and HUD to make efforts to increase the supply of housing units, consistent with the courts’ rulings; and create a comprehensive plan to remedy past effects of unconstitutional housing practices.67 The case, which the parties ultimately settled, resulted in the Gautreaux mobility program that provided vouchers and counseling, and between 1976 and 1999, helped more than 7,000 families move to less segregated and more affluent areas.68

The Gautreaux mobility program was relatively successful. According to a sample of over 1,500 families more than 15 years after the program was implemented, two-thirds of the families who moved to the suburbs were still living there.69 In addition, the program was successful from an intergenerational perspective. The children who moved to suburbs with their parents as part of the program, and were old enough to live on their own by the late 1990s, continued to live in neighborhoods with low poverty rates, lived in more integrated communities than those in which they originally lived, and had higher educational attainment rates.70 A study of children who moved to suburbs through Gautreaux finds that they were more likely than children who moved to cities through Gautreaux to graduate from high school, attend college, and attend better colleges.71 Amongst the children who moved to suburbs, those who did not attend college were more likely than city-movers to have a job with higher pay and benefits.72 On average, families in the program moved from neighborhoods with a census tract poverty rate of 40 percent, and by the late 1990s, were living in neighborhoods with a poverty rate of 17 percent—less than half of the poverty rate of their original tract.73 On average, families moved from neighborhoods that were 87 percent African-American to ones that were 30 percent African-American.74

Gautreaux’s successes were incomplete, however. The program placed one-fifth of the families in high-poverty and highly segregated neighborhoods.75 Also, a second version of Gautreaux moved hundreds of families from lower-poverty areas in 2002, but by 2006, roughly half of the families had already moved out of those higher- opportunity neighborhoods and into areas averaging a 27 percent poverty rate.76 The Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance credited Gautreaux with improving the opportunities of families while acknowledging that Chicago still concentrated affordable housing in low-opportunity neighborhoods.77 Despite its shortcomings, Gautreaux is a successful model for expanding housing and other opportunities and has been utilized as such.78

2. Moving to Mobility Across the Nation

The relative success of Gautreaux inspired the creation of the Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing (MTO) demonstration program.79 Congress authorized MTO in 1993 to reduce the concentration of poor families in inner cities, address racial segregation in public housing, and utilize social experimentation to evaluate the effects of housing policy.80 MTO was a “10-year research demonstration that combined rental assistance with housing counseling to help very low-income families move from poverty-stricken urban areas to low-poverty neighborhoods.”81 The program targeted over 5,300 very low-income families in some of the nation’s most distressed public housing in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.82 Unlike Gautreaux, which integrated based on race and income, MTO integrated only on income.83 Still, as one expert noted, the program was successful in demonstrating that “it is possible for HUD and local public housing authorities to successfully operate an economic and racial desegregation program using Section 8 rental assistance in metropolitan housing markets.”84

"I love where I’m from

I hate where I’m from

And that’s exactly why

I can’t escape where I’m from"

The Peace Poets - “Barrio Libre (intro)”

Initial research on MTO showed improvements in families’ lives during the first five years of their participation, most notably for children; improvements in mental and physical health; and job improvements in certain localities.85 For example, families in Los Angeles moved to neighborhoods with significantly less crime (23 percent less); in Baltimore and Boston, children’s math and reading scores or pass rates improved substantially; and in Baltimore, MTO lowered teenagers’ arrest rates for violent crimes.86 However, longer-term research shows mixed results. Of the 1,820 families in an experimental group of MTO, almost half found an apartment and moved into a neighborhood with less than 10 percent poverty.87 However, half of these neighborhoods became poorer by the time the program  was over.88 Over two-thirds of the experimental group and Section 8 group moved from one to three times after being part of the MTO program.89 By the conclusion of the program, in 2002, the share of experimental group families living in low-poverty neighborhoods had fallen dramatically, from 39 percent to 25 percent.90 The main reasons for families moving after their original lease in MTO included problems with the lease (such as units being sold, rented above the voucher program ceiling price, or units being removed from the program altogether); conflicts with the landlord; wanting a bigger or better-quality apartment; safety issues; and substandard physical conditions.91 In New York,  families were particularly impacted by landlords raising rents or selling units; in Los Angeles, one-third of families reported that their neighborhoods were unsafe or undesirable; and in Boston, families were more likely to report issues with the size or quality of their housing unit.92

MTO was successful in placing families in low-poverty neighborhoods but the success was not consistent.93 For 75 percent of the families, MTO did not in the long-term keep families in low-poverty neighborhoods, or did not place them in low-poverty neighborhoods that would remain that way. Still, despite its failure to consider race and the multiple reasons for families moving, MTO confirmed that voucher programs can expand opportunities for low-income families.

3. Baltimore Does it Right

In 1992, Congress created HOPE VI, a housing program created to improve the environments of residents in severely distressed public housing, including through the demolition of public housing.94 However, the program was a disappointment in many ways. Housing and community advocates criticized the program because it displaced many low-income families and did not provide them with the choice of moving to high-opportunity neighborhoods.95 Critics also noted that the original residents did not always benefit from the intended redevelopment effects, including mixed-income developments; HOPE VI greatly reduced the amount of affordable housing in many cities; and the program has left many in the same, if not a worse, position.96

In 1995, a group of African-American public housing residents in Baltimore responded to the demolition of high- rise public housing developments, under HOPE VI and otherwise, and to decades of racial discrimination in public housing.97 The residents alleged that, since at least 1954, HUD and successive city administrations, including the public housing authority, engaged in a pattern or practice of discriminating against African Americans in public housing and failed to take the required action to ameliorate the effects of past racial discrimination.98 The federal district court concluded that HUD, but not the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, violated the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and its affirmative obligation to further fair housing by failing to take a regional approach to the desegregation of public housing in Baltimore.99 A subsequent settlement created the Baltimore Housing Mobility Program (BHMP).100

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Photo courtesy of Diego Iñiguez-Lopez

BHMP was created to enable families to move to racially and economically integrated communities in Baltimore and its surrounding counties. The program provides vouchers that help residents enter the private rental market and live in areas with a less than 10 percent poverty rate, where less than 30 percent of residents are African American, and where no more than 5 percent of residents receive subsidized housing. The program includes elements typical in housing voucher programs, such as providing housing search counseling; requiring the resident to remain in the new unit for at least one year in order to sustain the move to opportunity; and providing housing quality inspection. Critical to its success, however, BHMP requires residents to remain in eligible areas for at least two years; offers services including post-move counseling, second-move counseling, and financial literacy counseling; and provides that the voucher can be used in the entire metropolitan area.101

Since 2003, BHMP has helped over 2,000 families move from high-poverty, highly segregated neighborhoods to low-poverty and racially diverse communities outside of Baltimore City. In addition, over two-thirds of these families have remained in low-poverty and racially diverse neighborhoods.102 To be sure, while that still leaves one- third of those families in higher-poverty, more segregated communities, BHMP does show that a few additional services can go a long way toward achieving a housing voucher program that addresses racial segregation and concentrated poverty.

Getting the Community Ready for Change

4. A New Kind of Community in Oak Park

In addition to ensuring that low-income families make it to high-opportunity neighborhoods, fair housing advocates have created innovative ways to ensure that high-opportunity communities are ready for and welcoming of the beneficial changes that come with integration. One strategic approach, developed by the Village of Oak Park, Illinois, and the Oak Park Regional Housing Center (OPRHC), promotes a market-based model of racial integration.103 The Oak Park model has had great success in an otherwise segregated Chicago region.104

In this model, the Village and OPRHC (1) proactively promote Oak Park to a diverse population that reflects  the Chicago region, including communities of color and low- and moderate-income households, with a series of services to families that are seeking housing, and (2) work with property owners in order to ensure compliance with fair housing laws and to create incentives for the owners to “affirmatively market” their units.105

The first element involves OPRHC providing counseling to prospective residents: rental advisors connect them to available housing, explain the benefits of living in Oak Park, and discuss prospective residents’ reluctance to live in a neighborhood that is not predominantly made up of their own racial group.106 Prospective renters can also visit OPRHC and receive a listing of units that fit their budgets and criteria.107 The second element has the Village simultaneously matching grants for the improvement of rental units to landlords who agree to affirmatively market their buildings, which is, in part, providing a listing of available units to OPRHC.108 OPRHC also provides marketing and technical advice for landlords on how to comply with fair housing laws and basic property management.109

This dual approach, which gives tangible benefits to tenants and landlords, has been highly successful in creating an integrated community in Oak Park. For example, according to the index of dissimilarity, which compares the distribution of a selected group with all other groups in the area on a range from 0 to 1 (0 being no segregation and 1 being total segregation), Oak Park has a black-white dissimilarity index of .38, which is a radical contrast to the Chicago metropolitan rate of .75.110 Whereas, in 1970, African Americans made up just one percent of Oak Park’s population, in 2009, they were an estimated 20.7 percent.111 More work is necessary to achieve the vision of a fully integrated Oak Park: Latinos are underrepresented in the Village and the higher-than-average cost of living poses a challenge.112 Nevertheless, the Oak Park experience of attracting African Americans to a high-opportunity neighborhood, and working with that neighborhood and its housing market to develop a diverse community, has proven to a be model for integration.

5. Ground Zero in Westchester

Westchester County, New York, by contrast, shows that local resistance, if unchecked, can derail fair housing efforts. In Westchester, the Anti-Discrimination Center (ADC) challenged the county’s history of failing to affirmatively further fair housing.113 ADC brought suit under the False Claims Act, alleging that Westchester falsely certified that it was in compliance with its obligation to affirmatively further fair housing, in order to receive Community Development Block Grants and other federal funds.114 Not only did the county fail to conduct an appropriate analysis of impediments to fair housing, but it also failed to ensure that sub-recipients of federal funds—participating municipalities—were taking steps to affirmatively further fair housing.115 Therefore, ADC argued, Westchester improperly received over $45 million in federal funds.116

In February 2009, three years after the suit was originally filed, a federal judge agreed with ADC and found that Westchester made “false or fraudulent” certifications and failed to comply with its affirmative obligation under fair housing law.117 That summer, the court entered a consent decree that was designed to end residential segregation in Westchester.118 The consent decree stipulated that Westchester had to fund the construction of 750 affordable housing units in a manner that affirmatively furthers fair housing; facilitate the construction of affordable housing; and overcome barriers, such as exclusionary zoning, that municipalities put up to keep affordable housing and integration out of their neighborhoods.119

Unfortunately, a May 2014 analysis by ADC found numerous problems: Westchester failed to develop an implementation plan complying with the consent decree; most of the sites it picked for affordable housing are isolated; the county was far behind the development obligations it had for 2013; Westchester failed to address exclusionary zoning by municipalities; also failed to include ending de facto segregation as a goal in its housing policies and programs; the county rallied opposition to the federal court order; and Westchester never submitted an analysis of impediments that was satisfactory to HUD.120

According to ADC, the county used a variety of deceptive methods to avoid compliance with the federal court order. It places affordable housing sites in areas that: are isolated, are not integrated into existing communities, do not affirmatively further fair housing, and the selected housing sites allow the county to avoid addressing the restrictive single-family zoning that perpetuates segregation.121 Instead of removing barriers, Westchester represented that it chose sites for affordable housing, and counted them as such, when those sites’ barriers were already removed by previous litigation. Westchester represented those sites as being ones that it was developing in order to comply with the consent decree. In reality, this tactic limited the sites where affordable housing could be built.122 In addition, ADC found that the county used old census data, from 2000, to determine the neighborhoods in which it should build affordable housing; however, using 2010 census data would have been more accurate and would have required building affordable housing elsewhere, in neighborhoods where communities of color, particularly Latinos, had grown in presence.123 This has allowed a situation in which, according to the monitor of the settlement, seven municipalities in Westchester have exclusionary zoning and another nine municipalities have insufficient affordable housing provisions.124

"A child’s course in life should be determined not by the zip code she’s born in, but by the strength of her work ethic and the scope of her dreams."

- Barack Obama

Still, despite flagrant evasions of a federal court’s consent decree and Westchester’s explicit disinterest in complying with federal fair housing law, neither the monitor nor the federal government have sought the court’s intervention or sought to hold the county in contempt.125 Unfortunately, Westchester shows that not-in-my-backyard attitudes still exist and that it will require vigilance and persistent enforcement to affirmatively further fair housing.

Inclusive Development

6. A Breakthrough in Mount Laurel

The struggle for affordable housing in high-opportunity communities is by no means a new one. In 1972, a group of African Americans and Latinos challenged the land use regulations of New Jersey’s Mount Laurel Township.126 As with Westchester, many New Jersey municipalities, including Mt. Laurel, have a history of preventing local affordable housing by enacting zoning laws, including provisions that require one-family detached homes, minimum lot sizes, and maximum building size.127 In a landmark decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that municipalities had an affirmative obligation to ensure the construction of affordable housing and that the amount was to be determined by a regional “fair share.”128 The decision was difficult to enforce, as the state supreme court acknowledged eight years later in Mt. Laurel II.129 Still, the decisions led the state legislature to pass the New Jersey Fair Housing Act (NJFHA).130

The Mt. Laurel doctrine led to the creation of approximately 60,000 homes for low- and moderate-income families between 1985 and 2010.131 Those who moved into high-opportunity neighborhoods have had higher employment rates, family income, and educational performance rates among children; parents have been more involved in their children’s education; there has been less use of welfare; property values have not fallen nor have taxes risen; and developments have blended in so well that many people did not even know they existed.132

Nevertheless, the NJFHA contained counter-effective features. The act included provisions that allowed wealthy municipalities, through regional contribution agreements (RCA), to transfer their obligation or allocation of affordable housing to municipalities with higher concentrations of poverty, and reduced incentives for mixed-income housing. The state legislature eventually determined that RCAs were undermining its objectives of integration and expanding affordable housing, and eliminated the practice in 2008.134 In doing so, the state legislature mandated that every town allocate 13 percent of its affordable housing to people with very low incomes (30 percent of median income, or approximately $20,290 annually).135 Mt. Laurel shows that affordable housing, despite the possibility of evasion, can expand opportunities for low-income communities.

7. Local Innovation in Montgomery County

Efforts to use inclusionary zoning as a means of addressing segregation and concentrated poverty have not been limited to New Jersey. A year after the Mt. Laurel litigation began, in 1973, Montgomery County, Maryland, passed an ordinance requiring that a percentage of new housing units be developed for low- and moderate-income families.136 Under the ordinance, 12.5 to 15 percent of dwelling units, in developments of 50 or more units, must be “moderately priced,” and 40 percent of these units must be offered to the local public housing authority or nonprofit sponsors.137 By doing this, in exchange, developers are allowed to develop more units than zoning laws would otherwise permit.138

Montgomery County’s inclusionary zoning has produced over 12,500 affordable housing units and made those units well-integrated with market-rate housing.139 Almost ten percent (1,200) of the public housing units were for very low-income households, 55 percent of the moderately priced apartments between 1991 and 1998 were purchased by people of color, and people of color occupied 80 percent of the units purchased by the public housing authority.140 The program has had successes that policymakers have been unable to replicate in other parts of the country. For example, Massachusetts’ Comprehensive Permit Law, a statewide legislative mandate for inclusionary zoning,141 has failed to provide affordable housing for families in the lowest ranges of eligibility for moderate- income households, or for significant numbers of people of color.142 The statute created no subsidies, allowed the majority of communities to evade their requirement to allocate affordable housing, and failed to provide affordable housing for communities of color.143 Montgomery County, on the other hand, “suggests that more attention to the details of these programs may produce racial integration.”144

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Photo by Andreá Carolina Zamudio Galvis

The production of dwelling units for moderate-income households has decreased as Montgomery County reaches capacity for development. Nevertheless, inclusionary zoning remains one tool, of many, for affordable, integrated housing. Today, over 400 cities, towns, and counties have followed Montgomery County’s lead and are utilizing this tool.145 When applied correctly, inclusionary zoning successfully integrated affordable housing.146

8. An Imperfect Ideal in Portland

Inclusionary zoning has been a prominent part of the struggle for housing opportunity in Oregon. In 1973, the Oregon legislature created a land use planning board in order to achieve its planning goals, which included providing for “the housing needs of citizens of the state . . . at price ranges and rent levels which are commensurate with the financial capabilities of Oregon households and allow for the flexibility of housing location, type, and density.”147 Some, including the Housing Land Advocates, consider the state’s land use planning system to be one of the most well-developed and progressive of the nation.148 In 1999, however, the Oregon legislature prohibited jurisdictions from using mandatory inclusionary zoning.149 Since then, cities in Oregon have lacked a tool critical for creating racially and economically integrated housing, as they have been unable to require that housing units be designated for low- or moderate-income residents.150

Despite this setback, Portland has still had successes in its housing policies. Through regional planning, the city has encouraged all neighborhoods undergoing development to create their fair share of affordable housing.151 A regional planning agency, Portland Metro, enforces a regional growth boundary, or a land use planning line, to focus new development in urban areas and prevent urban sprawl.152 This type of land use planning, combined with strong land use and transportation policies, has allowed Portland to mitigate the degree of racial segregation that has come from local exclusionary zoning practices.153 As a result, Portland was able to rapidly decrease segregation among African Americans and whites, and is now one of the least class-segregated metropolitan areas in the nation.154 For example, according to the index of dissimilarity, which compares the distribution of a selected group with all other groups in the area on a range from 0 to 1 (0 being no segregation and 1 being total segregation), Portland has a class dissimilarity index of .29, or almost half the rate of the country’s most segregated metro areas for the poor.155

However, as former Portland mayor Sam Adams stated, the city has received “high praise on a low standard.”156 The decline of segregation has been, in part, due to gentrification that has displaced African Americans from   the historically African-American communities of Northeast Portland.157 From 2001 to 2011, Portland’s housing authority increased its Section 8 vouchers but, because of how the vouchers were administered, the distribution actually tripled the number of African Americans in the low-income neighborhoods of East Portland and West Gresham.158 In a federal tax credit program administered by Oregon, of the 17,000 housing units funded in Portland since 1991, 55 percent are in poverty census tracts and 20 percent are in tracts that are predominantly people of color.159 Similarly, of 4,700 housing units created by a state-administered rental program, approximately two-thirds contain African-American and Latino residents living in poverty tracts.160 African Americans and Latinos in the Portland metro area are twice as likely as whites to live in tracts that are predominantly people of color. Portland’s approach to segregation, concentrated poverty, and inequality of access to community assets has fallen short in a number of ways. Nevertheless, its model has proven to be a successful one for integration.

Fair Housing for All

9. The Long Road in Seattle

Nearby, in Seattle, Washington, fair housing advocates know that their cause will be a long-term struggle. Long before Congress passed the nation’s Fair Housing Act of 1968, civil rights activists were pushing for a local ordinance that prohibited discrimination in housing. That local advocacy caused the City Council to hold a public hearing on the issue in 1961. The Citizen’s Advisory Committee recommended that Seattle enact a fair housing ordinance in December 1962, but the mayor and City Council refused, resulting in a protest march and sit-in at the mayor’s office. In response to the pressure, the city created the Seattle Human Rights Commission, which drafted a fair housing ordinance and referred it to the City Council. The City Council again refused to pass the ordinance but placed it on the ballot, where voters rejected it in 1964. Less than four years later, on April 19, 1968, two weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Seattle passed its fair housing ordinance, with an emergency clause making it effective immediately.162

Since the 1968 passage of the ordinance banning racial discrimination, Seattle has broadened the types of discrimination that are prohibited by fair housing law. The City Council has done this by making it illegal to discriminate based on sex, marital status, age, parental status, political ideology, creed, or disability.163 Seattle also prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation, as have the state of Washington, 20 other states, the District of Columbia, and numerous localities.164 In addition, Seattle has banned discrimination based on gender identity, as have Washington state, 15 other states, the District of Columbia, and a multitude of localities.165 Discrimination based on source of income, such as housing assistance (including but not limited to Section 8), Social Security, or child support, is prohibited in Washington, as well as in 12 other states, the District of Columbia, and cities in 11 other states.166 Additionally, Seattle conducts periodic inspections of housing units and levies high penalties as a means of ensuring health, safety, and a minimum level of housing quality.167

Unfortunately, these protections have not achieved fair housing goals. In the Central Puget Sound region of Washington, which includes Seattle, over half of voucher holders live in areas with low or very low opportunity, as defined by access to education, economic health, housing and neighborhood quality, mobility and transportation, and health and environment.168 This is reflective of the national average: over half of the voucher holders living in the 50 largest metropolitan areas live in neighborhoods with poverty rates over 20 percent (close to half of whom live in neighborhoods with poverty rates of over 30 percent).169 In Seattle, households that are in poverty or receiving public assistance are more concentrated in low-opportunity areas than the regional average.170 Furthermore, whites are more likely to live in high-opportunity areas, while African Americans, Latinos, and indigenous people are more likely to live in low-opportunity areas.171 Even whites who live in poverty are more likely to live in high-opportunity areas than people of color who live in poverty.172 Nevertheless, Seattle’s expansive fair housing protections make sure that its residents will continue to benefit from successes in affirmatively furthering fair housing.

Praxis

10. Sustainable Communities

The data confirming the racial and economic divide in the Puget Sound region of Washington came from the Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI).173 SCI is a HUD program that seeks to “better coordinate regional planning for housing and transportation while supporting more sustainable and equitable decisions on land  use, infrastructure, and zoning.”174 Through regional consortia, SCI plans and grants federal funds to “revitalize some of the nation’s most distressed neighborhoods, support healthy, livable communities, and broaden access to opportunity-rich areas for all residents in a region.”175

Working with its regional partners in Washington, SCI collected specific and localized data on indicators of inequality.176 See Figure 1 on page 17. The data, on geographic access to good schools, good jobs, quality housing, transportation, health, and sustainability, identify racial and economic inequalities and illustrate those divisions on a map of the region.177 The map shows that in the Puget Sound region of Washington, as in many other parts of the nation, African Americans, Latinos, and indigenous groups live disproportionately in low-opportunity neighborhoods, as opposed to whites who are more likely to live in high-opportunity neighborhoods.178 This information can be used by policymakers and invested stakeholders to work toward overcoming barriers to equal housing opportunity.

This data can inform how cities should proceed with housing and development plans. For example, SCI’s research suggests that Puget Sound can and should find ways to leverage its relatively high rate of HUD site-based affordable housing in high-opportunity areas to increase mobility; develop housing counseling programs to lower the concentration of voucher holders in low-opportunity neighborhoods; use its public transit to link residents in low-opportunity neighborhoods to jobs and other regional resources; and target inequalities, on a regional level, when making investments and collaborations.179

In the case of the Seattle area, as of 2012, the Puget Sound Regional Council planned to incorporate the data and regional opportunity maps into a Fair Housing and Equity Assessment; encourage affordable housing developers and providers to utilize the results so that subsidized housing and housing vouchers are equitably distributed across the region; ensure that investments in the public transit system give low-opportunity residents access to high-opportunity resources; and let the results inform philanthropic efforts.180

Figure 1: The Opportunity Index

The following is a suggested set of indicators for neighborhood opportunity as suggested by The Kirwan Institute and Puget Sound Regional Council.181

Education

•       Math & Reading Test Scores

•       Student Poverty

•       Teacher Qualification

•       Graduation Rates

Economic Health

•       Access to Living Wage Jobs

•       Job Growth Trends, 2000-2010

•       Unemployment Rate

Housing & Neighborhood Quality

•       Vacancy Rate

•       Foreclosure Rate

•       High Cost Loan Rate

•       Housing Stock Condition

•       Crime Index

Mobility & Transportation

•       Cost per Commute

•       Proximity to Express Bus Stops

•       Average Transit Fare

•       Percentage of Commuters Who Walk
 

Health & Environment

•       Distance to Nearest Park or Open Space

•       Proximity to Toxic Waste Release

•       Percentage of Area within a Food Desert*

*Neighborhoods where lower-income households reside without access to a local supermarket or large grocery store.

Research results coming out of the SCI in Austin, Texas, show similar patterns of racial segregation and concentrated poverty.182 The data, as well as opportunity maps created by the Kirwan Institute at Ohio State University, show that: (1) Latinos are located primarily in low-opportunity neighborhoods; (2) because this is the fastest-growing population in Austin, it is critical to expand Latinos’ access to opportunity, particularly educational opportunities, if the region hopes to grow and keep a productive workforce; (3) gentrification is threatening to displace African Americans and Latinos who would therefore not benefit proportionately from the growth in opportunities; (4) the vast majority of affordable housing is located in low- or very low-opportunity areas, with a paucity in higher- opportunity neighborhoods; and (5) in addition to expanding choice in high-opportunity areas, Austin needs to invest in lower-opportunity areas to help create additional opportunity there.183

Based on their findings and due to the significant concentration of subsidized affordable housing—85 percent of units funded by the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program are in low-opportunity neighborhoods—the SCI’s regional partners in Austin have recommended that there should be a focus on creating housing mobility options in high-opportunity neighborhoods that are trending upward.184 In high-opportunity neighborhoods that are trending downward due to economic decline, Austin should discourage housing mobility options, but only after determining the cause of the downward trend.185 In low-opportunity neighborhoods that are trending upward, Austin should preserve housing affordability as markets rise, including through lease-to-own programs for qualified income groups and a reservoir of affordable housing.186 Ultimately, in low-opportunity neighborhoods that are trending downward, Austin needs to make strategic investments.187 Adding affordable housing should be done only after a careful consideration of the potential impacts on education, environment, employment, public safety, and transportation.188 Improving transportation and housing mobility are possible solutions, but should be done in conjunction with improving opportunity in low-income neighborhoods, such as improving schools and affordable childcare.189 The SCI data provides a way for municipalities to understand the extent of segregation, concentrated poverty, and inequality, and guide their efforts to affirmatively further fair housing.