By the Enterprise Community Partners Public Policy Team

As the nation continues to grapple with systemic racism, brought into stark relief this year by protests against police violence and the disparate impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on communities of color, some public officials are taking a new look at policies that have maintained and exacerbated longstanding racial inequities, especially in times of crisis. Many of these conversations center on education, health, community safety, and employment policies as causes of the historic and enduring disparities in life outcomes for communities of color. Often absent from these discussions, however, is an acknowledgment of how our nation’s housing policies have and continue to play a fundamental role in perpetuating racial inequities for Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) in America.

Watch: A Video Intro to the Series

Policies that determine where and what type of housing is available and affordable to low- and moderate-income people, who are disproportionately people of color, shape socioeconomic outcomes in areas such as education, employment, health, and wealth building. Furthermore, current housing policies entrench persistent patterns of racially and economically segregated neighborhoods that reinforce racial and ethnic disparities. It is only by acknowledging these links, addressing their roots and continued effects in housing markets, and committing to new anti-racist housing policies will the nation be able to undo decades of racial inequities.

To help shed light on the role of housing policy in racial equity in America, Enterprise Community Partners’ Public Policy Team is launching Policy Actions for Racial Equity (PARE): a new blog series on the connections between housing policy and racial equity. In this series, experts from across our organization will discuss different areas of housing policy, describe their contributions to racial disparities in housing and other socioeconomic outcomes, and offer policy and programmatic solutions to undo the harmful effects of these practices.

Our Commitment to Racial Equity

Enterprise has a long sought to address racial disparities in housing policy and practice, even as we work within the existing systems that perpetuate inequities. We work with communities of color to address a wide range of housing challenges and foster greater resilience and upward mobility. We provide training, technical assistance, and capacity building services to local groups to better mitigate the effects of long-standing inequities. Advancing fair housing at the federal, state, and local level has been one of our core policy priorities for years.

Despite these efforts, our mission as an organization is not achievable until we address the racist structures that have led us here. We acknowledge there is more we can and should do to counter the enduring legacies of systemic racism in housing. To that end, we recently affirmed our commitment to racial equity, naming it one of the three priorities guiding our strategic plan and seeking new ways to support communities of color. We take a community-centered approach to this work, centering the perspectives and strategies developed by communities of color for thriving amidst racist policies and their impacts. Enterprise also stands with our communities and partners to demand more: more accountability, more action, and more concrete steps toward racial equity.

By educating and engaging our partners, the PARE blog series is another way to focus on racial equity in our work and advance equitable policies. Addressing the fundamental role of housing policy in perpetuating racial disparities, and inspiring action amongst policymakers and advocates to undo these harmful practices, supports our efforts to create more inclusive, equitable, and prosperous communities.

About the Blog Series

In the PARE series, experts from Enterprise combine research, data, and stories that demonstrate the impact of specific policy areas on racial disparities in both housing and non-housing outcomes. Drawing on both our deep policy knowledge base and decades-long engagements with communities of color, we will highlight proven and innovative equitable housing and community development strategies for anti-racist policies at the federal, state, and local levels. We will also offer actionable policy and programmatic solutions to correct or counter these policies and advance racial equity.

Topics we will discuss will include:

  • Federal Rental Assistance Programs
  • Local Zoning and Development Restrictions
  • Policies that Promote Homeownership and Wealth Building
  • Criminal Justice and Housing Re-Entry
  • Gentrification and Neighborhood Change
  • Disaster Recovery and Resilience
  • Homelessness and Eviction Policy
  • Rural housing and persistent poverty
  • Manufactured housing

As we look to move forward in these and other areas of housing policy, however, we first need to understand where we’ve been. Our first blog post of the series, to be released in the next few weeks, will describe how various housing policies and practices of the past were designed to produce and perpetuate inequities by race. These overtly racist actions – such as redlining, racially restrictive property covenants, and block busting – created segregated neighborhoods that provided unequal opportunity for individual and community progress. While such policies are no longer explicitly enforced today, the legacies they left continue to drive disparate treatment and outcomes for communities of color, regardless of where they live. Understanding them is critical, so that we can learn from our mistakes and take proactive steps forward through policy toward a more equitable, inclusive society.

Let’s Get Started

We encourage all who believe in creating a just society to read, discuss, and share the PARE blog series as we learn and act to address the impacts of housing policies on racial equity in America. We also invite you to join us in this conversation, by suggesting additional topics and sharing resources for how we can advocate for greater racial equity. If you’d like to offer feedback on our body of work, please reach out to the Public Policy team. You can also check out our blog and subscribe to our daily and bi-weekly policy newsletters for more information on Enterprise’s federal, state, and local policy advocacy and racial equity work.