US hopes better data can fight segregation

The US housing department unveiled new rules Wednesday aimed at fighting segregation with the help of a database which will identify neighborhoods in need of transformation.

AFP| Last Updated: Jul 09, 2015, 02:43 AM IST

Washington: The US housing department unveiled new rules Wednesday aimed at fighting segregation with the help of a database which will identify neighborhoods in need of transformation.

"Unfortunately, too many Americans find their dreams limited by where they come from, and a ZIP code should never determine a child`s future," Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro said in a statement.

"This important step will give local leaders the tools they need to provide all Americans with access to safe, affordable housing in communities that are rich with opportunity."

The new rules come two weeks after a sharply divided Supreme Court upheld a key tool used to fight housing discrimination.

The justices ruled 5-4 that housing practices and policies with discriminatory outcomes could be challenged under the 1968 Fair Housing Act, even if there is no proof that government agencies or companies meant to discriminate.

The new rules will push cities and towns that accept federal funding to take "meaningful actions" to "overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities free from barriers that restrict access to opportunity."

Castro made the announcement during a visit to a Chicago housing development he hailed as a "visionary effort" to "enhance neighborhoods and help residents build better lives for themselves and their children."

In recent years the city has torn down eight crime- and poverty-ridden high-rise buildings which had become emblematic of a failed experiment in public housing and replaced them with 475 smaller, mixed-income units. It also encouraged retailers such as Starbucks to set up shop in the neighborhood.

The housing administration is hoping other municipalities will follow suit as it pushes to focus efforts beyond merely preventing discriminatory landlords or mortgage lenders from turning people away.

A public database will allow activists and community leaders to map out patterns of integration and segregation, poverty rates, the availability of affordable housing, access to public transportation and even the quality of neighborhood schools.

Communities will be required to set goals for "transforming racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity," the housing authority said.