Monday, April 23, 2012


There's another sad story about low-income housing and segregation in today's New York Times, this one from Texas. It's a familiar enough story about nimbyism, but it's interesting to point out the "weapon" that nimbyists successfully used to steer low-income housing units towards poor, minority neighborhoods. To decide where low-income units go, a scoring system is used in which "COMMUNITY SUPPORT" is the second-biggest point-getter (behind financial feasibility). Not surprisingly, more organized communities--which are typically among the wealthier communities--(which are typically among the more nimbyist communities), don't support low-income housing, and the units follow the path of least resistance. As a nonprofit developer quoted in the article put it: “Usually your more organized neighborhoods and communities are ones that have more resources, and those are the ones that are going to get organized more quickly if they don’t want you there.”   

Friday, April 6, 2012

Urban Renewal Brochures from 1956

Who did 1956 URBAN RENEWAL propaganda better, New York City or Baltimore? You decide:

The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion on 99% Invisible

The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion is the topic of the latest edition of the awesome radio show 99% Invisible! Check it out here.

In the show Dan gives a tour of some of Baltimore's "exclusionary offerings," including the "museum of exclusion" that is Greenmount Avenue. Here are some pictures of some of the weapons that Dan talked about:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Right to the Westchester Lifestyle

If you ever want an example of how incredibly clueless Americans are about the effects of segregation, read the comments in this New York Times article about the ongoing troubles in the Westchester Desegregation case (which is depressing even without the comments). Here are some gems:

"Housing is not a function of race, its a function of economics that determine where you live, you have to earn the necessary income to be able to purchase and maintain a home. Thats the American dream, get an education, work hard, have a family, buy a home and save for the future generation."

"People moved to Westchester to have a certain lifestyle. That is their right. If poor Hispanics and black people want to move here they should have to have the money to do it."

"I don't care who you are, if you intend to build subsidized housing next to my nice house, I'm going to scream bloody murder. I've worked hard for 20 years, my house is a significant investment for me, and no government hack has the the right to cut it's value by half or more simply by fiat."

Sunday, April 1, 2012


None of us were in fraternities, and neither do any of us have a particular soft spot for people who join them. Nonetheless, to our running list of victims of the Arsenal of Exclusion—which includes blacks, the poor, Jews, the homeless, immigrants, teenagers, the disabled, revelers, tourists, farmers, beach-goers, homosexuals, straight people, and people without children—we have to add the frat boy. Why? Because there is a weapon of exclusion—the FRAT BAN—aimed right at them, and just as liberal, ACLU attorneys sometimes defend the free speech rights of racists, bigots, homophobes, and other individuals and groups whose political positions are antithetical to their own, so too must we defend the frat boy against those who wish to exclude him and deny his right to the city.

As the U.S. Supreme Court has noted, “The regimes of boarding houses, fraternity houses, and the like present urban problems. More people occupy a given space; more cars rather continuously pass by; more cars are parked; noise travels with crowds.” And as Patricia E. Salkin and Amy Lavine point out in “Zoning for Off-Campus Fraternity and Sorority Houses,” fraternities also “tend to encourage dangerous drinking behaviors, and, at their worst, they engage in highly offensive and sometimes criminal hazing rituals.” When frat houses are located off-campus, conflicts with the community are common. At least one town in Maine (Gorham), frustrated by the “rowdy” behavior of frat boys from the University of Southern Maine, instituted a ban on any future fraternity or sorority houses, and adopted new regulations on existing ones, including an annual license fee and semi-annual safety code inspections. “Fraternities have proven themselves to be anti-social and antithetical to a family way of life,” remarked Gorham Town Councilor Burleigh Loveitt.

In many respects, attitudes towards fraternities reflect attitudes towards group homes, sober-living facilities, and Section 8 housing. And like these alternative housing models, fraternities are often affordable. In Gorham, a member of the University of Southern Maine’s Sigma Nu fraternity estimated that the cost of living at the Sigma Nu fraternity house is about $750 less per year than living on campus. “If it wasn’t for this housing,” he told the Gorham Planning Board, “I wouldn’t be attending the university.” Still, the pervasiveness of fraternity and sorority houses—Salkin and Lavine write that by 1990, nearly 700,000 students at hundreds of colleges and universities belonged to fraternities or sororities—and the relatively small number of frat bans in place around the country, suggests that they are somehow more palatable than group homes, sober-living facilities, and Section 8 housing, which are far more often the source of exclusionary zoning and ordinances.