of a broad agenda of civil rights policy changes. National and local fair
housing organizations have been impacted by changing popular "tastes"
regarding racial equity as well as by reductions in funding for "discretionary" items such as civil rights enforcement. The National Committee Against
Discrimination in Housing and National Neighbors, two of the major, national fair housing organizations, are both experiencing severe financial
problems which limit their effectiveness in pressing for legislative or funding
To federalize or not the solution to minority housing problems is not an
ideological contest likely to be won by any side. External events, outside
the control of the leadership of the minority communities, appear likely to
overwhelm most federal domestic policy options. Civil rights and the housing conditions of blacks and Hispanics are concerns which only influence
the margins of current Congressional and Executive Branch planning. Only
a substantial increase in organized support and lobbying for a broad range
of civil rights protections is likely to achieve any credibility and impact.
Such an agenda will, in the short run, probably only hold its own against
forces aimed at reducing civil rights guarantees. It seems wiser, however,
to pursue a more offensive rather than a defensive policy in order to secure
as much leverage and credibility for future battles.
These data are drawn from the American Housing Survey (AHS) for which
the most current data are for 1983. AHS data have been gathered by the Bureau of
the Census since 1973 ( Goering, 1980). Research using Census and AHS data for 1960 and 1977 reveals a larger increase in the rate of homeownership for blacks
than for whites ( Bianchi,
Spain, 1982: 47).
This measure of housing needs focuses on the conditions affecting existing
housing and its occupants. It does not include consideration of the "need" for
additional housing to accommodate the demographic increase in household formation. The latter issue has been considered elsewhere ( Weicher,
In 1980, the national median rent-to-income ratio was 27 percent. Families in
the $15,000 to $20,000 range paid 20 percent of their income for rent. However,
the average rent burden for households earning below $3,000 was 60 percent. The
burden was 47 percent for poor households earning between $3,000 and $7,000
( Welfeld and
Carmel, 1984: 298).
There is a progressive decline in inadequate housing with rising income ( Bianchi
Spain, 1982: 45; Apgar, 1985).
The inadequacy of housing conditions for Hispanics as a group masks considerable variation among the various subgroups which comprise "Hispanics." Cubans, for example, live in housing with fewer problems than Puerto Ricans ( Office of Policy Development
, 1980; Juarez, 1977).