How liberal are Democrats when low-income housing comes to their neighborhood?

Now that HUD and the Supreme Court are cracking down on fair housing (the SCOTUS ruling upholding disparate impact cases and HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing came within two weeks of each other) Democrats have to live up to their rhetoric and embrace the poor and non-white into their own (affluent, white) neighborhoods. 

Thomas Edsall of the New York Times uses Westchester County in New York State as an example of how these white Democrats might not support their purported ideals in the real world. The county has turned Democratic (from a Republican majority) in recent years with one glaring exception:  County Executive Robert Astorino, who ran on, essentially, and anti-low-income housing ticket in 2009. His predecessor, Andrew Spano, signed a decree in 2009 mandating 750 affordable units by 2016. Since his election, Astorino has been vocal in his opposition to HUD and the decree. He was reelected in 2013, proving ongoing support for his less-than-liberal stance on helping the poor.

I don’t think the Westchester incident (or the sentiments of the county’s residents) is isolated. From my own observations, otherwise liberal people become conservative isolationists in the face of economic integration. Giving the poor a helping hand is admirable, unless it happens in your own neighborhood. NIMBYism can emerge with surprising force when a treat to an area’s integrity is perceived. Class and race are so interconnected in our country, that racial segregation is the inevitable result of promoting class-homogeny in neighborhood development. 

Fair housing and civil rights have been largely forgotten in our community consciousness. Liberals assume that since it is legal for poor minorities to live where they choose the problem of segregation has been solved. The fact that most people live in divided communities is seen as an act of personal choice. In other words, it is not our fault. While to some extent this may be true (people tend to prefer to remain in communities where they are comfortable and have long-established connections) it is mostly a rationalization for not enforcing or promoting inclusive policy. 

True integration will only happen when people of all economic situations are welcomed (with affordable units and open arms) into all areas of the country. SCOTUS and HUD are making it harder for liberals to hide among their hypocrisy; either city compositions will change or an unsurprising number of people will take a walk from the left to the right side of the aisle. 

Speak Your Mind

*