Bay Area researcher explains how systemic racism, redlining contribute to current housing crisis

ByDion Lim and Ken Miguel KGO logo
Thursday, July 30, 2020
Local researcher explains systemic racism's role in current housing crisis
The coronavirus pandemic is impacting the housing market today and people of color have been disproportionally impacted by systemic racism.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The coronavirus pandemic is impacting the housing market today and people of color have been disproportionally impacted by systemic racism.

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ABC7 News Anchor Dion Lim had a chance to talk to Marina Gorbis, Executive Director of the Institute For The Future in Palo Alto, about why today's housing shortage comes built on racist policies of our past.

Here's a transcript of their conversation:

Dion: You know, Marina fighting systemic racism, this is such a tall order. But I've gone through some of your research and some of the reporting, and it looks like housing plays such a big role in fighting the problem. It's not always top of mind for a lot of people. What has your research shown us?

Marina Gorbis: Yeah, one of the areas that are important to look at is, you know, when Europeans come to the U.S., and they visit San Francisco or Los Angeles or New York, they inevitably are so surprised to see so many homeless people and these homeless encampments and tents everywhere. And I think it's hard for them to understand how is it that the country that has so much abundance of so much wealth as these people living on the streets, right, and for us, we know this, we don't like it, but you know, we don't have any kind of demonstration saying homeless lives matter, right?

Europeans think of housing as a human rights, as a utility, everybody deserves a place to live and everybody deserves a place that they can live it. Americans think of housing and homeownership as an asset.

It creates all kinds of issues. So the New Deal for example, that allowed widespread homeownership among white people, right, that's kind of responsible for creating the middle class and the growth of the middle class. So a lot of good things were accomplished. But at the same time, it's really entrenched this incredible inequality. Because as you know, there was such thing called redlining, where basically, areas that were redlined, literally on the map that appeared as the red areas, they couldn't get financing so people couldn't afford to buy homes. And that ended up being people who are poor people, primarily for African Americans and minorities who couldn't afford that kind of asset. And the thing about it became the main asset and the main form of economic security.

VIDEO: COVID-19 creates housing crisis in San Francisco's Tenderloin

When shelter-in-place orders went into effect, the number of people living on the streets in one San Francisco neighborhood grew 400%.

Dion: For most Americans. The residual effects certainly can be felt for so long, even though redlining has been banned for so many decades. Let's talk about the specific neighborhoods as well because there are more hard-hit areas geographically and San Francisco in particular than others.

Marina Gorbis: Yeah, in San Francisco, if you look at those old maps of redlining, you could see those areas that were red line. And it's the Fillmore area, the Western Addition. And those areas have gone undergone tremendous redevelopment. And what that redevelopment meant, again, looking at housing as an asset, is that people basically had to leave those neighborhoods, they had to move out of those neighborhoods. They weren't able, there were not enough housing units built that those people could afford. So if you look from the 1970s, until today, the African American population in San Francisco has declined in half, it was cut in half. If you look at homeownership by African Americans, 3% in San Francisco, of African Americans own homes, as opposed to close to 50% of whites in San Francisco. So basically, you would then have pores you didn't enough you didn't build enough affordable housing. People had to move out of the area. That area was basically redeveloped for luxury apartments mostly and for homes for more well to do people. So you create a shortage of affordable housing.