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At a Crossroads: Affordable Housing and Civil Rights in the Mystic Valley

What's our role? What does being a card carrying NAACP member say? I believe it says you are a part of community with a long a deep history over a century long that has and will continue to fight for freedom, justice and equality of all people. It means - you believe in working to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equity of all citizen, to working to remove all barriers to racial discrimination. We stand together as a community

of the Mystic Valley Area Branch that encompasses the cities and towns of Arlington, Everett, Malden, Medford, Winchester and Woburn. We stand together with other NAACP branches in Massachusetts like the Boston Branch the Brockton Branch or South Middlesex Branch and

throughout New England as part of our state conference that includes branches in every New England state because we have recently chartered a new branch the Champlain Area branch in Vermont. We stand together with other state conferences that make up Region II of

the national organization that includes Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware. As national organization we are part of over 2000 other chartered NAACP branches. 

 

What would it mean to be an Affordable Housing Advocate?  I believe that definition means: Working to create programs and establish policies that make housing affordable to low-income people.  Today A high percentage of people of color and African Americans (as a sub-category of people of color) make up a larger percentage of low-income households.

Census Data from American Community Survey 11.6% of Massachusetts residents have incomes at or below poverty level.

  • Of the 11.6% out of 6.5 Million people (compared to a National poverty level of approx. 15.9%)

  • Black African Americans make up 22.4% while only representing 6.6 of the population   (about 1 in 5 persons in Mass are Black)

  • Asian make up 14.5 representing 5.3 of the population

  • Hispanic or Latino make up 30.2 representing 9.6 of the population (about 1 in 3 are Hispanic)

  • White are 9% and are 80.4 percent of the population (about 1 in 10 person are white)

A disproportionate amount of people of color are stuck and trapped in poverty in Massachusetts - That is why becoming an Affordable Housing Advocate fits completely within your role of Civil Right advocacy.  

 

There is consensus and recognition of the problem locally (with establishment of Housing Authorities, regionally (at state level legislature passed M.G. L. Chpt 40B in 1969) allowing developers of affordable housing units to bypass local municipal zoning and permitting regulations to build more densely housing if municipality has less than 10% housing as affordable) and nationally (passage of Fair Housing Act 42. U.S.C. 3601 in 1968 - making if the policy of the United States for fair housing. The objective of these policies was an attempt to address the clear need to increase the availability of affordable housing.  Each one of the Cities and towns within our jurisdiction have long standing housing authorities.  Having a local housing authority has not alleviated the problem.   It is well documented the benefits of access to safe, decent affordable housing offers, it creates family stability, better health and improved educational outcomes.  These beneficial outcomes are the building blocks to thriving and resilient communities.

 

Housing insecurity lies at the root of many front burner social issues, and what is needed are effective strategies to preserve and expand the affordable housing inventory and to increase housing access for those in greatest need.   

 

More and more people of color are residing and moving into the suburbs.  People are moving out of the urban centers like Boston and locating into the surrounding suburbs and those surrounding suburbs are becoming more diverse and less white.

 

The challenge of developing more available affordable house are local zoning and land use ordinances that maintain the status quo.  Often residents are vocal opponent to affordable housing from the fear of a sharp change in the homogeneous make up of their neighborhoods.    

 

What is happening here is part of a national trend of a diverse population of people leaving the inner-city. This shows the change in population of Mystic Valley Area cities and towns - the suburbs - along with a chart of level of housing insecurity by percentage of income used for housing.

 

What would it mean to be an Affordable Housing Advocate?  I believe that definition means: Working to create programs and establish policies that make housing affordable to low-income people.  Today A high percentage of people of color and African Americans (as a sub-category of people of color) make up a larger percentage of low-income households.

Census Data from American Community Survey 11.6% of Massachusetts residents have incomes at or below poverty level.

  • Of the 11.6% out of 6.5 Million people (compared to a National poverty level of approx. 15.9%)

  • Black African Americans make up 22.4% while only representing 6.6 of the population   (about 1 in 5 persons in Mass are Black)

  • Asian make up 14.5 representing 5.3 of the population

  • Hispanic or Latino make up 30.2 representing 9.6 of the population (about 1 in 3 are Hispanic)

  • White are 9% and are 80.4 percent of the population (about 1 in 10 person are white)

A disproportionate amount of people of color are stuck and trapped in poverty in Massachusetts - That is why becoming an Affordable Housing Advocate fits completely within your role of Civil Right advocacy.   

 

There is consensus and recognition of the problem locally (with establishment of Housing Authorities, regionally (at state level legislature passed M.G. L. Chpt 40B in 1969) allowing developers of affordable housing units to bypass local municipal zoning and permitting regulations to build more densely housing if municipality has less than 10% housing as affordable) and nationally (passage of Fair Housing Act 42. U.S.C. 3601 in 1968 - making if the policy of the United States for fair housing. The objective of these policies was an attempt to address the clear need to increase the availability of affordable housing.  Each one of the Cities and towns within our jurisdiction have long standing housing authorities.  Having a local housing authority has not alleviated the problem.   It is well documented the benefits of access to safe, decent affordable housing offers, it creates family stability, better health and improved educational outcomes.  These beneficial outcomes are the building blocks to thriving and resilient communities.

 

Housing insecurity lies at the root of many front burner social issues, and what is needed are effective strategies to preserve and expand the affordable housing inventory and to increase housing access for those in greatest need.   

 

More and more people of color are residing and moving into the suburbs.  People are moving out of the urban centers like Boston and locating into the surrounding suburbs and those surrounding suburbs are becoming more diverse and less white.

 

The challenge of developing more available affordable house are local zoning and land use ordinances that maintain the status quo.  Often residents are vocal opponent to affordable housing from the fear of a sharp change in the homogeneous make up of their neighborhoods.    

 

What is happening here is part of a national trend of a diverse population of people leaving the inner-city. The charts below show the change in population of Mystic Valley area cities and towns - the suburbs - along with a chart of level of housing insecurity by percentage of income used for housing.  

In response to a recent Supreme Court decision on housing rights, Sherrilyn Ifill, President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, stated “Housing is the most critical foundation for individuals and families seeking reassurances that the American Dream is within reach for everyone no matter what they happen to look like or wherever they live."

 

We can and should take an active role in advocating for greater opportunities for low-income residents. Active participation in city and town comprehensive housing policy plans insuring people of color are providing an important diverse perspective in the development of plans.If we want to become cities and towns that are not predominantly White with 80% or more, if we collectively want to be a reasonable alternative for low-income and people of color then we as NAACP’er should not leave that to chance.  If families in our community need to pay between 30 - 50 percent of their income towards housing we continue to have an affordable housing problem. 

 

Here's what you can do: 

  • Talk with the Chair of our Housing Subcommittee, Cornelius Prioleau about becoming a member of his committee.

  • You can attend local Zoning Board or Community Development Meetings as NAACP advocate.

  • You can begin to educate yourselves about options for establishing viable affordable housing and share that information with local and regional leaders – and with your NAACP branch.

 

 

 

 

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