Can we end segregation?

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Like, “Can we end hunger?” the  question of “ending segregation” in housing seems so vast and intractable that I never gave it much thought until August 6th while sitting in the front row of a CHAPA Breakfast forum entitled, “What do the Supreme Court Ruling on Disparate Impact and HUD’s Final Rule Mean for Fair Housing?”[1]

We heard Attorney Henry Korman (of Klein Hornig LLP) say that the purpose of Title VIII when it was passed back in 1968 was to end segregation. That got me wondering – what would ending segregation really look like? I certainly don’t have an answer, but I will go out on a limb and guess that we at least need to move the dial in the direction of more racial minorities living in our western suburbs.

The racial minority population in Massachusetts is about 30% and in our subset of Metro West towns it’s about 20%. That doesn’t feel like a vast difference until you think about the actual numbers. That difference represents about 63,000 people. How could we include 63,000 people in just our 21 towns and cities? What would it take? I began searching…

I found some interesting and important groups working on “inclusive communities.”[2]  But, they largely help communities think about how to bring diverse people together to work at the same table. Here in the suburbs, we need to actually get them into the house before we can ask them to the table.

A quick search for desegregation turns of mostly stories of school desegregation: there is no silver bullet to desegregate neighborhoods. No doubt what has taken centuries to build up will take a long time to knock down. I did find this:

If cities and developers respond with both the proactive planning that Williams and Daniel hope for and the expanded understanding of the problem that Orfield says is necessary, there’s a chance that the country could start seeing real progress on the physical divisions that are at the root of more explosive racial conflict.

“I think we’re seeing the fruits of this self-reinforcing segregation in Ferguson, in Baltimore, and all over the country,” Orfield said. “We have to use our housing system to make progress toward a more integrated society, not just rebuilding and resurfacing slums.”[3]

How would you use the housing system to build a more integrated society?

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