A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on fair housing brings welcome affirmation to the concept of scattered-site, racially integrated development. It provides strong legal grounding to create more mixed-income neighborhoods throughout metropolitan areas.
In a 5-4 ruling, justices reaffirmed federal rules that prohibit state and local governments from spending federal housing money in ways that promote segregation. The decision is especially timely for local advocates who expect visits from federal housing officials this summer. They will investigate two complaints filed with HUD regarding housing patterns in Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Complainants in the cases say that some neighborhoods in those cities have more than their fair share of racially isolated and concentrated low-income housing. They argue that the way the Metropolitan Council and local governments currently use credits reinforces segregation.
The Supreme Court ruled that a legitimate discrimination charge could be brought against policies that impose a “disparate impact” on black citizens even if done unintentionally.
Consider the research: In Minnesota, a study by the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota found that the Twin Cities region has become more segregated because too large a share of affordable housing has been placed in impoverished black areas.
And last month, Harvard economists found that moving people to wealthier, less-segregated neighborhoods helps reduce poverty. They reported that the longer a child lives and attends school in a more-affluent community, the more likely he or she will have positive outcomes.
That was the idea behind the Fair Housing Act — to discourage concentrated low-income housing and racial isolation and lift more individuals and families out of poverty. That promise just got a welcome lift from this nation’s highest court.