“The segregation of our metropolitan areas today leads to stagnant inequality because families are much less able to be upwardly mobile when they’re living in segregated neighborhoods where opportunity is absent,” says Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law. “If we want greater equality in this society, we need to take steps to desegregate.”
“Segregation has had a negative impact across New Jersey’s neighborhoods,” says Richard W. Brown, CEO of Monarch Housing Associates. “The disparate impact of racial segregation on homelessness is clear and raises concerns about public policy designed to end homelessness and create affordable housing. We all must act now to end all housing segregation and discrimination and solve the affordable housing and homelessness crises in order to ensure that opportunity starts at home for all of New Jersey’s citizens.”
Renee Koubiadis, Executive Director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey (APN), present ed on APN’s report, The Uncomfortable Truth: Racism, Injustice and Poverty in New Jersey which found that structural racism is a primary cause of poverty in New Jersey.
“The Color of Law informs us about how we created segregated communities in our nation through formal policy and action in our nation’s history,” Says Koubiadis. The Uncomfortable Truth: Racism, Injustice, and Poverty in New Jersey outlines how those formal policies became part of our institutions and structures. They reinforce structural racism in housing and other areas of our communities to create and sustain concentrated poverty in what is now one of the most segregated states in the nation. We look forward to sharing some of the solutions for how our state can move toward an end to structural racism and poverty and engaging new partners in this work.
The reports set the stage for a panel discussion with Rothstein around what we can do in New Jersey to combat and eliminate segregation in New Jersey’s cities and towns and advance better Fair Housing policy.
“Fifty years after passage of the Fair Housing Act, the legacy of de jure and de facto housing discrimination persists,” said Professor Paula Franzese, Peter W. Rodino Professor of Law at Seton Hall University Law School. “This important program will help us all to understand better just how housing segregation was achieved and is allowed to persist. With that enhanced understanding, we become called to remedy the harms done and to make real the promise of housing as a human right.”
Franzese moderated the discussion with Rothstein and panelists who each share a different and important perspective on the importance of ending all forms of segregation, including Demelza Baer, Senior Counsel & Director of the Economic Mobility Initiative for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
“The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice is honored to co-sponsor this event, and grateful to Monarch Housing Associates for highlighting critical housing issues every year through this forum,” says Baer. “Rothestein’s book The Color of Law explained how the government actively segregated our housing and denied people of color access to homes in neighborhoods of opportunity with good schools and jobs. The impact of this housing segregation is still evident today, as New Jersey is home to some of the most segregated communities in the nation. This forum is an important opportunity to understand how we got to this point, and what we can do in New Jersey to integrate our communities and ensure safe and fair housing for all residents.”
Rev. Eric Dobson, Staff Outreach Coordinator for Fair Share Housing Center and Felicia Alston-Singleton, a Fair Housing Officer for the City of Newark and Housing Chair for the Newark Branch of the NAACP joined Baer, Rothstein, and Franzese on the panel.
Tenants’ rights advocate Alston-Singleton adds: “The Color of Law gives a clear understanding of what happened decades ago in the housing market and how it continues today. It expands on how state and local governments control where citizens live.”
“We all have the right to be treated equally in the pursuit of housing,” says Craig Sashihara, Director of Division on Civil Rights. “Any person or entity that tries to deny that right—be it a landlord, property seller, realtor, homeowner’s association, or newspaper listing an exclusionary housing advertisement—will be held accountable.”
This Public Policy Forum is part of a series providing opportunities to engage advocates and community, faith-based and civic leaders in solutions to affordable housing issues in NJ. It follows on the success of the October 2017 forum focused on the issue of Eviction.