Magazine article Poverty & Race

Community-Driven Exclusion Mapping: Examining the Discriminatory Impacts of Housing Segregation across Urban, Rural, and Suburban Geographies

Magazine article Poverty & Race

Community-Driven Exclusion Mapping: Examining the Discriminatory Impacts of Housing Segregation across Urban, Rural, and Suburban Geographies

Article excerpt

Mapping with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is now firmly established as a necessary tool in understanding, documenting, and combating housing segregation. Unfortunately, most of the tools and information are designed with only sophisticated users in mind and may not provide data most relevant for individual communities, especially rural communities. The UNC Center for Civil Rights Inclusion Project provides one model for interactive mapping of housing segregation that is both large in scale and designed to be used directly by impacted communities.

HUD's Proposed Rule

Regarding the requirements of Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH), HUD's proposed rule includes a prototype web-based map that combines basic demographic data (age, race, disability status, English proficiency, and poverty) with the location of existing subsidized housing and voucher users, and with generalized "community assets and stressors."1 The map is designed specifically to be used by local governments, states and public housing agencies in order to conduct a required Analysis of Fair Housing (AFH), which is necessary to receive various HUD grants.2 One of the goals of the new rule is to provide data directly so that governments and agencies can focus more on community engagement and less on data-gathering, to allow users to "spend less time gathering information and more time engaged in conversation with the community."3 The tool is not primarily designed for communities to use directly.

Most of the remedies for Fair Housing issues addressed through HUD grants impacted by the new rules concern the location of new affordable housing, such as the HOME and HOPWA programs. Both HOME and HOPWA provide some funding for the rehabilitation of existing communities, as does the CDBG program. However, much of the emphasis is on new construction. HUD also requires an Analysis of Impediments to (AI) as part of AFFH to identify barriers to fair housing, which does require looking at historic patterns of segregation, but redressing them is primarily through providing access to affordable housing in more affluent or white neighborhoods.

HUD's prototype mapping tool reflects this underlying purpose of providing affordable housing in areas with greater opportunity. The map displays generalized data about "community stressors," like failing schools and health hazards, but does not display information on individual schools or polluters that affect a particular neighborhood.4 This type of data will be useful to governments and policy makers when planning for siting affordable housing in appropriate areas, but does little to assist existing communities in identifying or combating already existing impacts of segregation and exclusion.

The UNC Inclusion Project

Rather than looking for broad patterns in urban areas, the Inclusion Project at the UNC Center for Civil Rights grew out of direct community representation with the goal of creating an interactive map and easily accessible data for communities to use in direct advocacy, as well as being available for local governments and advocates. The Center's direct representation of excluded communities revealed recurring patterns of communities underbounded from municipal limits, kept out of the best schools, and burdened with landfills and other environmental hazards. The Project attempted to document these patterns empirically, identify new communities with similar impacts, and, most importantly, provide a resource for these communities to study and communicate their own situation.

Starting with the hypothesis that concentrated communities of color face disproportionate impacts of housing segregation, the study examined data in five key areas: environmental justice, housing, political exclusion, education, and access to infrastructure. Many data points were the same as those used in the more urban-focused opportunity mapping; others, such as access to infrastructure and exclusion from municipal boundaries, are more particular to rural and suburban forms of exclusion. …

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