Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Slate: Persistent Racism in Housing is a Tax on Blackness

According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago, redlinng is "is the practice of arbitrarily denying or limiting financial services to specific neighborhoods, generally because its residents are people of color or are poor. While discriminatory practices existed in the banking and insurance industries well before the 1930s, the New Deal's Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) instituted a redlining policy by developing color-coded maps of American cities that used racial criteria to categorize lending and insurance risks." The creator of redlining was Homer Hoyt (1895-1984), who was a renowned land economist and real estate appraiser. He conducted path-breaking research on land economics, developed an influential approach to the analysis of neighborhoods and housing markets. His approach combined multiple factors (e.g., condition of dwelling, transportation access, proportion of non-whites) using overlay mapping. The approach enabled the FHA to assess the risk a neighborhood posed for mortgage lenders. Unfortunately, this groundbreaking approach led to the institutionalization of racialized neighborhood vitality assessments by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

Jamelle Bouie of Slate describe the history of persistent racial discrimination in housing in America:

Hoyt, as chief economist of the Federal Housing Authority, wanted to improve the accuracy of real-estate appraisals so that an affiliated agency—the Home Owner’ Loan Corporation, established by the Home Owners’ Refinancing Act of 1933—could standardize the process for making mortgage loans, avoid undue risks, and bail out homeowners who lost their homes in the economic crash. Working with Hoyt at the FHA, the HOLC would map cities and divide neighborhoods into various risk categories that were based on his ethnic hierarchy and coded accordingly. A “green” neighborhood was white, affluent, Anglo-Saxon, and appropriately Protestant. A “blue” one had less desirable whites—Jews, Irish, and Italians—but was stable and upwardly mobile. A “yellow” one had undesirable, often working-class whites, and a “red” one was predominantly black or Mexican, regardless of wealth or class. And in these “redlined” areas, loans were either expensive or nonexistent, forcing families to rely on speculators and private sales by unscrupulous homeowners.

Under this system, whites had more flexibility in terms of where to live in a city or metropolitan region. If the individual or family were of the right stock, they could live anywhere in the "green" or "blue" neighborhoods. Additional benefits included access to mortgages, lower interest rates, and better neighborhood conditions (i.e., safety, amenities, better schools, and access to jobs). Under this system, whites are perceived as good neighbors aka the "norm") while blacks are perceived as bad neighbors (aka undesirables). Why do Americans accept this view as fact? It's due to an outdated racist housing policy developed by Holt and the FHA that still dictates racial residential patterns. As a result, race has become a proxy of neighborhood value. Bouie continues:

This is obviously racist, but it’s also unsurprising. As the Hoyt story shows, this discrimination is in the DNA of American real estate. For most of the last century, lenders and brokers—including national realtor organizations—used race as a proxy for neighborhood value. “Appraisal manuals,” writes Pietila, “continued to repeat Hoyt’s hierarchy until the 1960s … implying that the groups lowest on the ladder were detrimental to housing values.” These manuals also pushed realtors and homeowners to use private agreements—called covenants—that forbade sale to “undesirable” neighbors.

Though racial covenants and blockbusting are illegal today, realtors are using subtle racial methods to keep neighborhoods "white" via economics pricing home values higher in predominately white neighborhoods and a widespread urban revitalization tool called gentrification, which can lead to displacement (long-time, low income residents are forced to move out because of rising rents). Low-income residents are forced to move further away to neighborhoods with fewer amenities and less transit-friendly.

A recent WBEZ article in Chicago revealed that there is no concentrated pockets of whitewhite poverty in Chicago. Yet the map easily points out concentrated pockets of black (and Latino to a lesser extent) poverty in Chicago. Low-income and middle-class whites left Chicago for the suburbs in the 1960s and 1970s when the rents began to increase. Blacks could not leave the ghettoes since racist realtors refused to grant mortgages for blacks to live in better neighborhoods. Thus, a century of racialized housing policy created the pockets of concentrated black poverty in Chicago. Blacks are not poor because they want to; it's because institutional policies isolated them to primarily the South Side of Chicago.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Featured Reference Books about Macro Social Work

As students prepare for a new academic year, I have provided a list of featured books about macro social work. I hope that this list is useful to prospective students, current students, and practitioners in the field. If I am missing a reference, please post a comment. I will add the book after further review. 

General Reference

Community Organization and Human Services Management

Policy Practice

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Featured Resource about Macro Social Work Practice

Online MSW Programs has a comprehensive featured article about macro social work, Introductory Guide to Macro Social Work Practice. It provides an overview on careers, entry into macro social work, and why macro social work is important to the field. Examples of macro social work careers featured in the article include the following:
  • Policy advocates and analysts
  • Community and health services specialists
  • Program development specialist
  • Research associates and analysts
  • Community educators
  • Community outreach specialists