#086 Mar/Apr 1996

Shelter Shorts

Public Housing Ordered for Dallas Suburbs On one of many lawsuits filed against HUD, local housing authorities, and cities to reverse decades of ghettoization of poor minorities, a federal judge […]

Public Housing Ordered for Dallas Suburbs

On one of many lawsuits filed against HUD, local housing authorities, and cities to reverse decades of ghettoization of poor minorities, a federal judge has ordered predominantly white areas of Dallas and surrounding suburbs to accept public housing. The ruling, issued in mid-April, is the result of an 11-year-old desegregation battle, the New York Times reported.

Under the order, HUD must ask 17 of 19 suburbs in Dallas County, along with the City of Plano in Collins County, to sign agreements with the Dallas Housing Authority to accept public housing. The ruling requires HUD to make possible the placement of 3,200 public housing units altogether in Dallas and nearby suburbs. The suburbs have resisted the City of Dallas’s previous attempts to induce them to sign agreements to accept public or Section 8 housing. Last year, residents of predominantly white North Dallas sued to keep out 75 of 474 new housing units ordered in response to the lawsuit, filed by black public housing tenants. Although the North Dallas homeowners lost their legal challenge, construction has not yet started on the new units. Should the suburbs resist the latest ruling, HUD would be required to investigate.

In issuing the ruling, Judge Jerry Buchmeyer also noted that 92 percent of black public housing families live in predominantly black or minority housing projects in predominantly black or minority-concentrated areas where the poverty rate exceeds 40 percent. In addition, the court has observed that housing projects with mostly black residents are far inferior to those with white residents. The order would remedy inequities by requiring that services and programs, such as security patrols, Head Start, and public schools, attended by the low-income black public housing residents be upgraded to the conditions of those attended by their white counterparts. Schools will be assessed according to the percentage of students passing competency exams.

James W. Rouse Dies At Age 81

James W. Rouse, founder of the Enterprise Foundation, a national nonprofit that he and his wife Patty launched in 1982 to provide low-income people with decent affordable housing and the opportunity to change their lives, died April 9 of complications from Lou Gehrig’s Disease at his home in Columbia, MD. Columbia is the 80,000 population “new city” that Rouse developed in the 1960s based on the concept of racial and economic diversity.

The Enterprise Foundation has worked with more than 550 community-based organizations and committed approximately $1.7 billion to help develop more than 61,000 homes for low-income people. In 1993, Rouse relinquished his role as foundation chairman to focus on the nation’s first Neighborhood Transformation program in Baltimore’s impoverished Sandtown-Winchester community. The program has helped develop more than 50 projects and services, including more than 1,000 homes, a program to provide cost-free primary health care to the community’s more than 10,000 residents, a community center, community gardens, a food and clothing coop, and a neighborhood newspaper. HUD Secretary Henry G. Cisneros, who hailed Rouse as a “bona fide genius with prodigious stamina and energy for urban issues,” called Neighborhood Transformation Rouse’s greatest contribution.

Rouse’s background in housing also includes working for the FHA before starting his own mortgage banking firm; serving on President Dwight Eisenhower’s Task Force on Housing in 1953 and on President Ronald Reagan’s Task Force on Private Sector Initiatives in 1982; and, in 1987, chairing the National Housing Task Force, which issued a report that formed the basis of the National Affordable Housing Act of 1990.

Minimum Wage Wars

Redevelopment projects such as Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, which has drawn visitors back downtown with shopping, restaurants, offices, and an aquarium, are sustained through huge public subsidy, the New York Times recently reported. The promise of more jobs for city residents, many of whom are low-income minorities, is often used to justify these subsidies. But jobs created by such enterprises are frequently low-wage. In addition, downsizing by city government in Baltimore and many other cities has left former municipal employees to perform the same jobs for city contractors for significantly lower pay. In response to this situation, the Industrial Areas Foundation and a coalition of churches successfully campaigned for an increase in the minimum wage. Baltimore city recently required that companies with which it holds contracts pay their employees at least $6.10 an hour-well above the national minimum wage of $4.25 an hou-and $7.70 by 1998. Some, however, argue that the requirement should extend to companies that benefit from public subsidies, such as tax rebates and the use of public land, for downtown redevelopment projects.

Meanwhile in Washington, the Center for Community Change (CCC) reports that momentum is building for a minimum wage increase. Amendments sponsored by Senators Kennedy and Daschle, which would raise the minimum wage by 90 cents over two years, have not received a straight up-or-down vote. In the House, 21 Republicans have sponsored a bill to increase the minimum wage by one dollar over two years. All Democrats and 21 Republicans would make a clear majority in the House. Jack Quinn (R-NY), who is the lead sponsor of the increase proposal, expects more Republicans to sign on. For more information, contact Jerry Jones at CCC, (202) 342-0567.