Tue, May

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing? Where’s the Beef?


ONE MAN’S OPINION - On the surface Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) doesn't sound like a single-family neighborhood killer but it is. It is at the heart of the new Housing Element which is using the State’s version of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) policy of the same name.

HUD’s AFFH states that the Fair Housing Act requires HUD and its recipients of federal financial assistance to do more than simply not discriminate; they must take meaningful actions to overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities free from barriers that restrict access to opportunity based on protected characteristics, which are: Race, Color, National origin, Religion, Sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), Familial status, Disability.  

California code states that “Affirmatively furthering fair housing” means taking meaningful actions, in addition to combating discrimination, that overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities free from barriers that restrict access to opportunity based on protected characteristics. Specifically, affirmatively furthering fair housing means taking meaningful actions that, taken together, address significant disparities in housing needs and in access to opportunity, replacing segregated living patterns with truly integrated and balanced living patterns, transforming racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity, and fostering and maintaining compliance with civil rights and fair housing laws. The duty to affirmatively further fair housing extends to all of a public agency’s activities and programs relating to housing and community development.

OK, got it. That’s a whole lot of important sounding words. The question I have been asking all along is where’s the beef? Where is the segregation? Where is the segregation in single- family neighborhoods? Are they not truly integrated? Where’s the discrimination? Are they not areas of opportunity? Name the ones that are not, otherwise stand down.  Why do we have to have multifamily overlays of single-family neighborhoods? They certainly won’t solve the affordable housing problem we have had for decades. They will only provide more opportunities for developers to put up market rate apartments with a few affordable units. So again, where’s the beef? Where are the examples. We are grownups, we can handle it. Name them!

When you go through this Housing Element where are the patterns of segregation that are still blocking access to opportunity based on protected characteristics?  I don’t see them. The last housing element listed Familial status, typically where a landlord refuses to rent a unit to families with children, as the most common form of fair housing complaint with 1168 incidents. That was followed by disability issues with around 1018 cases. I think we can all agree there should be zero cases but is this the reason to destroy all our neighborhoods? Something else is going on here. What that turned out to be was old think. I was using old think (redlining/exclusionary areas etc.) which is not how the city or state defines it. The current available 2018-2023 Assessment of Fair Housing from the Los Angeles Housing Department website answered the question. There I discovered they came up with some new metrics to gauge segregation. Under their proactive metrics it stated that LA has significant levels of segregation. One commonly used metric for segregation is called the Dissimilarity Index. The Dissimilarity Index measures the percentage of a certain group’s population that would have to move to a different census tract in order to be evenly distributed within a City or metropolitan area in relation to another group. The higher the Dissimilarity Index, the higher the extent of the segregation. For example, if a City’s Black/White Dissimilarity Index was 65, then 65% of Black residents would need to move to another neighborhood in order for Blacks and Whites to be evenly distributed across all neighborhoods in the city. They also state that social scientists use the isolation and exposure indices to measure segregation. The Isolation Index measures the extent to which minority members are exposed only to one another. Values for the Isolation Index range from 0 to 100. The Exposure Index is a group's exposure to all racial groups. Values for the Exposure Index also range from 0 to 100. A larger value means that the average group member lives in a census tract with a higher percentage of people from another group.

Who thinks this way other than a government bureaucrat. Who thinks that kind of mumbo jumbo is sufficient to destroy single-family neighborhoods? This sounds like a whole bunch of state planning. The kind one would find in a Socialist country, not in America.  I haven’t spoken to a single person who wants to restrict access to opportunities for anyone, especially anyone listed under protected characteristics status.  Most of the people I know have been involved with the Neighborhood Council system since its inception and don’t think that way. However the ones I spoke to over the weekend are beyond angry at what is going on with the Housing Element and the lack of information coming to them. Mobility is tied to money not isolation or exposure indices.  There are other factors like family, work, school, and a ton more that keep us rooted to a place not some academic index. Diving deeper and deeper into this mass of obfuscation is not how I planned to spend the weekend, but the city is playing a waiting game against a deadline while they keep us in the dark. We have no choice but to move forward and challenge anything we don’t understand.

I don’t know how this particular battle will play out but more and more of us from all backgrounds are saying enough of this overreach. Overreach from the city and overreach from the State. It is time to come together and have our voices heard.

(James O’Sullivan is the retired ex-president (25 years) and current ex-officio of the Miracle Mile Residential Association. He is Vice President of Fix The City Inc., currently in court with the City over their adoption of the Hollywood Community Plan and we are pushing the City to be more transparent with RSO units.)

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