“Make no mistake: this is a big deal. With the HUD budget alone, we are talking about billions of dollars.”-- Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, in a July 16 speech to the NAACP about a new regulation and database aimed at adding “protected classes” into predominantly white neighborhoods.
The federal government is getting serious about pushing racial and ethnic diversity into America’s neighborhoods--and is using big data and big money to achieve its aims.
A new interactive database will help regulators, local housing officials and individuals take action on a newly proposed regulation that would require agencies to “affirmatively further” the inclusion of minority residents in white neighborhoods.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced the database and regulation at last week’s NAACP convention, saying the Obama administration was battling “a quieter form of discrimination” that was “just as harmful” as long-outlawed segregationist practices, like racially restrictive property covenants.
The problem now, Donovan said, is that prospective minority buyers are not being encouraged to move into predominantly white neighborhoods with top-notch schools, government services and amenities like grocery stories, etc.
The goal here then is to continue to prosecute at a high rate incidences deemed proactively segregationist – Donovan touted 25,000 individuals in the past 3 years being paid damages under cases reported to the agency or independently investigated by HUD – but to add in a mandate for diversifying neighborhoods.
The old way was to punish exclusion. The new way is to punish lack of inclusion.
The punishment is also different. Rather than fines and prosecutions for those who sought to keep minorities out, the new penalty would be a withholding of federal funds from local and state government agencies dependent on HUD grants if they fail to push greater diversity. The way those agencies interact with developers, realtors, homeowners associations and others would need to reflect the federal push for diversity.
The report card comes in the form of the new maps, which use Census data to score communities on their racial and ethnic concentrations, as well as income and community services. Check out the Atlanta suburbs. South of Dekalb Avenue, the dots are mostly green – black residents – and north of Dekalb Avenue, the dots are mostly blue – white residents.
HUD wants a more even distribution of blue and green dots in the city and if you are planning a new subdivision or a realtor looking to sign potential buyers up for FHA loans, the dot distribution is something the Obama administration wants you to be mindful of. And your local zoning board, county commission or state real estate licensing bureau ought to be mindful too, since their funding could depend on it.
As for what happens if you live in a place like Brooke County, W.Va. where every dot is blue? Would the local housing authority have to recruit non-blue dots to the county in order to not risk federal funds? What if no holders of green dots want to come to live on Apple Pie Ridge Rd.?
What about all the green dots at the intersection of West MLK Blvd. and Crenshaw in Inglewood, Calif.? It will not presumably be necessary for local city planners to recruit blue dots for that map.
And what about the fact that the real estate purchases increasingly begin on the color-blind Internet? Would one need to declare the color of their dot before entering the search terms?
At a time when Americans are on high alert about government snooping and databases, and we have still unfolding before us at the IRS a story about how readily power can be abused for political aims, it would seem like a strange moment to put the federal government in the dot distribution business.