National fair housing legislation opened up higher opportunity neighborhoods to multitudes of middle-class African Americans. In actuality, the FHA offered much less to the millions of poor, Black residents in inner cities than it did to the Black middle class. Partly in response to the FHA’s inability to provide quality housing for low-income blacks, Congress has pursued various mobility strategies designed to facilitate the integration of low-income Blacks into high-opportunity neighborhoods as a resolution to the persistent dilemma of the ghetto. These efforts, too, have had limited success. Now, just over fifty years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act and the Housing Choice Voucher Program (commonly known as Section 8), large numbers of African Americans throughout the country remain geographically isolated in urban ghettos. America’s neighborhoods are deeply segregated and Blacks have been relegated to the worst of them. This isolation has been likened to colonialism of an urban kind. To combat the housing conditions experienced by low-income Blacks, in recent years, housing advocates have reignited a campaign to add “source of income” protection to the federal Fair Housing Act as a means to open up high-opportunity neighborhoods to low-income people of color.
This Article offers a critique of overreliance on integration and mobility programs to remedy urban colonialism. Integration’s ineffectiveness as a tool to achieve quality housing for masses of economically-subordinated Blacks has been revealed both in the historically White suburbs and the recently gentrified inner city. Low-income Blacks are welcome in neither place. Thus, this Article argues that focusing modern fair housing policy on the relatively small number of Black people for whom mobility is an option (either through high incomes or federal programs) is shortsighted, given the breadth of need for quality housing in economically-subordinated inner-city communities. As an alternative, this Article proposes, especially in the newly wealthy gentrified cities, that fair housing advocates, led by Black tenants, insist that state and local governments direct significant resources to economically depressed majority-minority neighborhoods and house residents equitably. This process of equitable distribution of local government resources across an entire jurisdiction, including in majority-minority neighborhoods, may be a critical step towards urban decolonization.
Norrinda Brown Hayat,
Mich. J. Race & L.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjrl/vol24/iss1/4