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Southeastern Geographer Vol. XIX, No. 2, November 1979, pp. 114-126 RACIAL INEQUALITY IN FEDERAL HOUSING PROGRAMS: A WELFARE GEOGRAPHY APPROACH John G. Patterson A stated goal of federal housing programs is to provide "a decent home and suitable living environment for every American family." (J) Although the concept of a decent home has received considerable attention , the concept of a suitable living environment has not been adequately defined. The concept is a vital component of the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) responsibility for ensuring racial equality in the operation of its housing programs. (2) This responsibility has increasingly highlighted the importance of the location of housing units, and local housing authorities and HUD have been cited by the courts for their failure to accomplish racial equality in the location of subsidized housing units. (3) The objective of this study is to develop surrogate measures for the socioeconomic quality of neighborhoods within a city, and then to determine whether white and minority households receiving subsidies through various housing programs are being located in neighborhoods of comparable socioeconomic quality. BACKGROUND. Low income housing programs have been found to perpetuate, complement, and increase existing racially and economically segregated residential patterns. (4) Some studies have linked racial segregation to socioeconomic inequality in the operation of the private housing market. (5) Few studies, however, have documented this link within federally subsidized housing programs which operate under different guidelines and with the added responsibility for ensuring equal racial treatment. (6) Most researchers dealing with the locational aspects of federal housing programs have been very general and have failed to demonstrate explicit socioeconomic disadvantages, if any, which may result from the implementation of these programs at the local level. This has led to highly generalized locational remedies; for example, some Dr. Patterson is Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of Wisconsin -Whitewater in Whitewater, Wl 53190. Vol. XIX, No. 2 115 studies have expressed the need to construct low income housing in suburban areas. (J) Implicit in this approach are the assumption that all suburban areas provide suitable living environments and the implication that suburbs are somehow immune from the acknowledged deteriorating processes at work within central cities. (8) Such an assumption and implication are not supported by evidence, and, if they persist, society may repeat certain central city mistakes in the suburbs. In light of their stated goals, improved locational analysis and monitoring offederal housing programs are needed if the performance of these programs is to be effectively evaluated and improved. A WELFARE GEOGRAPHY APPROACH. The rationale for greater emphasis on the spatial aspects of federal housing programs is suggested by the discriminatory constraints operating to the disadvantage of minority households in the private housing market. HUD's responsibility for ensuring racial equality, court rulings against past locational practices by local housing authorities and HUD, and the 1974 Housing and Community Development Act's stated objective to encourage "the spatial déconcentration of housing opportunities for persons of low income," provide additional reasons for investigating spatial practices in federal housing programs. (9) This study employs a welfare geography framework, similar to that encouraged by Smith, to investigate these spatial practices. (JO) According to Mishan, welfare geography attempts to develop approaches by which various spatial alternatives practiced by or available to society can be ranked on a scale of better to worse. (JJ) Such a framework permits an initial spatial assessment of federal housing program impacts on subsidized households. The entire housing subsidy (HS) can be partitioned into its aspatial component, the decent home or the housing structure subsidy (HSS) along the horizontal axis, and its spatial component, the suitable living environment or the locational subsidy (LS) along the vertical axis (Fig. 1). A higher locational subsidy is achieved when a household is located in a better socioeconomic environment. The housing structure subsidy is determined by the quality of the housing unit itself, and was assumed to be identical for every household in a particular housing program (HSSl) because each program must meet certain construction standards and cost requirements. A household located in a neighborhood offering LS3, therefore, receives a higher housing subsidy (HS3) than if it had 116 Southeastern Geographer HOUSING...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1549-6929
Print ISSN
0038-366X
Pages
pp. 114-126
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
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