Kudos to Colorado Community Media for a piece of fine local journalism with “The Long Way Home” series examining Colorado’s housing crisis. The January 26 articles detailing racial inequities in Denver’s suburban communities like the Littleton area, where I live, provide important insight — and highlight the need for all of us to redouble efforts for social change.
As the series illustrates, Littleton and surrounding towns didn’t become lily-white by accident. Government policies assured racial and economic segregation via redlining, racially restrictive covenants, and large-lot zoning. Today, Denver metro is highly racially segregated, ranks 13th among the most highly economically segregated urban areas, and 40th among U.S. large metro areas for upward mobility of below-median-income families.
Today’s affordable housing emergency is compounded for our Black, Latinx, and Native American neighbors who face historical barriers designed to exclude them from generational wealth-building as well as present-day ingrained prejudices. This is not a healthy situation for our community or our nation.
Visionary racial justice leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. fought to pass the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), enacted 55 years ago this April. Thanks to the FHA, local groups like the Denver Metro Fair Housing Center (funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — HUD, help persons facing discrimination to file complaints with Colorado’s Civil Rights Division or in federal court. And the framers of the federal law had the wisdom to include a provision for “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” which requires local governments to take steps to reverse historic segregation via a renewing five-year action plan they submit to HUD.
Still, many folks in white skin identity today do not realize the extensive benefits of living, working, and learning in diverse communities for all racial and ethnic groups. Major employers are realizing the benefits, but the embrace of diversity lags in our suburbs.
As we work together locally to cope with the affordable housing crisis, we need to use all the tools provided by federal and state law to increase local diversity. Let’s move toward a Denver metropolitan area where every individual, group, and community enjoys equal housing opportunity and access in a bias-free and open housing market, where integrated neighborhoods are the norm, and the private and public sector guarantee civil rights.
John Paul Marosy, outreach and education coordinator, Denver Metro Fair Housing Center