Wednesday, April 25, 2018


Is there any justice without economic justice?

A team of researchers from Princeton University, led by sociologist Matt Desmond, has begun compiling a database of evictions throughout the United States. The first of its kind, the database found that at least 2.3 million evictions were filed in 2016, a rate of 4 evictions per minute, underscoring the heightening housing crisis in the United States a decade after the collapse of the housing market.
Desmond’s project, Eviction Lab, has thus far collected 83 million records from 48 states and the District of Columbia. “We’re in the middle of a housing crisis, and that means more and more people are giving more and more of their income to rent and utilities. Our hope is that we can take this problem that’s been in the dark and bring it into the light,” Desmond recently told NPR.
This scourge of evictions, Desmond reports, is rooted in the stagnation of wages combined with escalating housing prices. “Incomes have remained flat for many Americans over the last two decades,” Desmond explained, “but housing costs have soared… between 1995 and today, median asking rents have increased by 70 percent, adjusting for inflation.” As a result, he notes, there is a “shrinking gap” between families’ income and their rent expenses.
Desmond’s assertion is borne out by research done by other organizations. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), workers earning the federal minimum wage ($7.25 hourly) would have to work an average of 94.5 hours weekly in order to afford a basic, one-bedroom apartment. The NLIHC’s annual report on low income housing, released in March, states that about 8 million people nationwide pay greater than 50 percent of their income for rent.
“The problem is not that low-income people aren’t working hard enough. The problem, rather, is that many jobs don’t pay enough for low-income people to afford to pay the rent,” Diane Yentel, the president and CEO of the NLIHC told City Lab.

For justice, we need economic justice.

Who will protect the above people without it?

Not HUD, at least not right now.

Did you know that April is Fair Housing Month?

HUD explains, "Nearly 50 years ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and fair housing became law.  In signing the landmark measure, President Johnson declared, “Now, with this bill, the voice of justice speaks again. It proclaims that Fair Housing for all, all human beings who live in this country, is now part of the American way of life."


Intended as a follow-up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the bill was the subject of a contentious debate in the Senate, but was passed quickly by the House of Representatives in the days after the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The Fair Housing Act stands as the final great legislative achievement of the civil rights era.

Yes, MLK had championed the bill.  ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANICA explains, "One of the bill’s strongest supporters was Martin Luther King, Jr., who had been at the forefront of the open housing marches in Chicago in the 1960s. After King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson encouraged Congress to pass the bill as a memorial to the slain civil rights leader before King’s funeral."

Senator Edward Brooke was one of the laws most vocal champions.  He was also the first African-American elected to the Senate.

The Senate vote was 73 for and 27 against.  The breakdown is  46 Democrats vote for it and 27 Republicans voted for it while 21 Democrats voted against it and 6 Republicans voted against it.  All 100 senators voted though, in the cold light of  today, some might wish they could change no votes to yes.

Of Brooke, the US Senate notes:

The first African American elected to the Senate by popular vote, Edward Brooke of Massachusetts served two full terms, from 1967 to 1979. Born in Washington, DC, in 1919, Brooke graduated from Howard University before serving in the United States Army during World War II. After the war, he received a law degree from Boston University, and became the first African American elected as a state's attorney general. During his Senate career he championed the causes of low-income housing and an increased minimum wage, and promoted commuter rail and mass transit systems. Senator Brooke worked tirelessly to promote racial equality in the South. He also integrated the Senate barbershop when he had his first haircut there after becoming a senator. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a White House ceremony on June 23, 2004, and was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2008.

He and then-Senator Walter Mondale co-sponsored the bill (Mondale would go on to become Vice President under Jimmy Carter).

HUD notes "The Act originally prohibited discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of housing based on color, race, national origin and religion. Later, the Act was amended to prohibit discrimination based on sex, disability and familial status."

The Fair Housing Act was a step in the right direction.  It is not a complete journey, merely a step and other steps are sorely needed.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }