Fair Housing

Suing the Suburbs

Fights against the displacement caused by rapid gentrification tend to focus on the gentrifying neighborhoods themselves. But some housing advocates in the Bay Area are wondering if the idea of […]

Fights against the displacement caused by rapid gentrification tend to focus on the gentrifying neighborhoods themselves. But some housing advocates in the Bay Area are wondering if the idea of looking at the regional housing market could apply to their fight too.

They are looking for plaintiffs for a potential lawsuit against a small, wealthy, fairly white community that rejected plans for 315 “moderately priced” apartments in three-story buildings, finally accepting instead a plan for 44 million-dollar single family houses on the site.

CityLab's Brentin Mock has the full story here.

Now, it's worth noting that researchers at UC Berkeley who have produced an early-warning displacement map of the region are cautioning that upping the production of market-rate units will not be enough to deal with the region's housing crisis. It will take tenant protections, lasting affordability, and subsidized units among other things.

But fighting exclusionary zoning and insisting on the principle that every community should provide a fair share of a variety of housing at different income levels, a classic fair housing issue, should clearly be considered part of the same issue. After all, part of the reason displacement and gentrification are a problem is that there is a shortage of not just housing, but desirable places to live that are accessible and affordable. Improving the quality of life—with anti-displacement measures—in struggling neighborhoods is one way to lower this pressure. And adding more variety of housing in places that would already be desirable to some folks if they could afford it is of course another.

And, if activists who have been focused more closely on the groundswell of energy surrounding pressures on rapidly changing neighborhoods could tie that strategically to a regional fair housing strategy, that could be incredibly powerful. 

As the Texas Organizing Project's Houston chapter says—we need the right to choose (where to move), the right to stay, the right to equal treatment, and the right to have a say. (See our interview with John Henneberger for more on their campaign.) To have the right to move, there has to be somewhere to move to. 

Our lens could even go from regional to global! On the tenants/homeowner protection side, some folks doing amazing organizing work in Spain want Americans to join them in fighting the predatory practices of Blackstone, which has been making some big investments in the Bay Area too.)

(Photo credit: Courtesy of Allen via flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Related Articles

  • A row of small, two-story houses with pitched roofs on a paved street. They alternate in color between yellow and medium gray, and some have shrubs in the front yards. There are no cars n the street.

    Soaring Property Insurance Rates Threaten Affordable Housing Development

    March 26, 2024

    Rapidly rising insurance premiums are forcing affordable housing developers to cut back on programming, lay off staff, and even sell. To add insult to injury, some insurers also seem to be adding penalties or withdrawing coverage for housing voucher holders.

  • Meet Me at the Intersection of Housing, with Guest Lisa Rice

    January 12, 2024

    The president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance talks with Shelterforce about new challenges in the affordable housing landscape, the role of AI in promoting fair housing, and powerful tools driving the fight for housing justice.

  • A small homemade ramp made of a white board with "RAMP" painted on it in black covers the gap in a street-level doorway of a brick building. The door is of vertical black boards and is dirty with dust and splashed mud.

    All New Homes Should Be Accessible

    December 12, 2023

    Because so many old buildings are hard to fully retrofit, new homes need to fill in the gap.