It has been 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched in Chicago, setting forth a vision of equality for all. Yet, in 2016, racial issues continue to spur impassioned debate as Chicago joins cities like Baltimore and Ferguson experiencing heightened racial tension prompted by the deaths of black residents by police. Although much dialogue is centered on the actions of individuals, these instances of violence are the symptoms of a more insidious disease. At the community-level we see a key commonality – these cities are among the most segregated in America. Research has demonstrated that this degree of segregation breeds implicit bias by isolating groups and allowing fear and misunderstanding to fester at the subconscious level. By focusing resources on the underlying issue of segregation, we can work to eradicate the disease, instead of treating the array of symptoms that arise from it.
To get at the root of this issue, we must not forget that public policy created the demographic patterns we see in cities like Chicago, and is deeply connected to present-day race-based inequities. Longstanding government policies endorsed redlining in mortgage lending, depriving African-American communities of capital and mainstream home purchase opportunities. Governments sanctioned segregation through siting of public housing in exclusively minority neighborhoods, while alternately dismantling improving black neighborhoods through urban renewal. In lock step with these efforts, the real estate industry racially steered home seekers in order to maintain the separation of neighborhoods by race. Failing to address this history, its ongoing impacts, and present day inequities, will continue to fuel racial injustice and bright line difference in the way people of color are treated in the 21st century.
To catalyze change, and through a new Federal Fair Housing Initiatives Program Grant, key civil rights organizations throughout the region are collaborating to address systemic fair housing issues in Chicagoland, one of the most racially segregated areas in the country. This unique partnership—the first of its kind in the our region—was spearheaded by HOPE Fair Housing Center, and includes the Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Open Communities the Sargent Shriver National Center for Poverty Law, and South Suburban Housing Center collectively referred to as the Chicago Region Fair Housing Collaborative (The Collaborative). The Collaborative will address the root causes of the region’s segregation by creating a forum for community engagement and action around housing issues and policies, while simultaneously addressing discriminatory practices and prohibitive barriers in the housing market.
Call to Action: We all have a role to play in creating more diverse, equitable, and resilient neighborhoods across our region. Local governments can implement tools to assess the impact of policy and funding decisions on issues of equity; they can rigorously examine local patterns of segregation and work to reverse these trends; and finally, they can work in tandem with neighboring jurisdictions to effect change on a broader level. Community organizations, social service providers, other nonprofits and faith-based groups, can use their expertise and community knowledge to connect the dots between segregation and contemporary social issues. Groups that work directly with homebuyers can learn tips for recognizing discrimination in home purchasing and lending. Residents can speak out about what they want to see in their community and work to promote welcoming communities. The Collaborative looks forward to having conversations with individuals, organizations and government officials to raise awareness of these issues, have an honest conversation about the inequities evident in our region, and mobilize around solutions we can implement.
Partner with the Collaborative
Municipalities and other jurisdictions:
- Gain information regarding fair housing best practices
- Collaborate with other local jurisdictions to assess regional fair housing issues
- Request fair housing information during the community planning process
- Request a community workshop or training
Community organizations, service providers, and other nonprofits:
- Request a staff training and learn about fair housing best practices and tips for recognizing discrimination
- Find a local fair housing enforcement organization for referral purposes
- Work with the Collaborative to host a community workshop or training
- Work with the Collaborative to provide local feedback and assessment during the community planning process