Op-ed | Fair Chance for Housing Act is a win in the fight against systemic racism

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I’ve been organizing in Black and brown communities in New York State for 13 years. The biggest issue I hear again and again from these communities: housing.

Let me tell you from experience: racism is deeply ingrained in our housing systems. Even though it has changed forms, it certainly didn’t end in 1968 with the Fair Housing Act. But this year, the New York City Council has a tremendous opportunity to redress decades of state-sanctioned discrimination and racism with the Fair Chance for Housing Act.

Let me take a step back. There are two parallel tales we all know, but we don’t always see how they’re still connected to this day: the tale of redlining and the tale of mass incarceration.

In the 1930s, the federal Home Owners’ Loan Corporation drew maps of thousands of U.S. cities. Neighborhoods with large numbers of Black and immigrant households were colored bright red, indicating that prospective lenders should not invest. This made it nearly impossible for Black families and other redlined residents to purchase homes and build wealth. Although redlining and race-based housing discrimination were officially outlawed in 1968 when the Fair Housing Act was passed, its legacy and impact on Black families persist in the segregation of our cities and the continued disinvestment in Black neighborhoods.

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