How Housing Policies Reinforce Systemic Racism-- John Oliver & Shervin Aazami
Many of the Blue America-endorsed candidates are prioritizing housing as part of their campaigns. When I saw the John Oliver clip above, I immediately thought about San Fernando Valley challenger to do-nothing corporate Dem Brad Sherman. I spoke with Shervin, who noted that "When discussing the legacy of institutional racism in Los Angeles, most-- if not all-- roads lead back to housing policy. For decades, the city of L.A. weaponized housing policy to deny home ownership-- and thus generational wealth accumulation-- in Black and brown neighborhoods. From deploying racially restrictive covenants, to entire neighborhoods strictly limited to single-family zoning, to freeway construction projects intentionally run through low-income Black neighborhoods, to the use of eminent domain, officials across Los Angeles utilized a multitude of discriminatory practices to segregate neighborhoods by race. City officials were buoyed by overtly racist policies from the Federal Housing Administration that denied mortgage loans to non-white applicants for decades. Entire towns-- including many here in the San Fernando Valley-- were essentially built as wealthy white enclaves that intentionally kept poor people of color out through a combination of brutal policing and racist housing policy."
The intersection of racism and housing is something that inspired Shervin, who became a first time father a month ago, to run for Congress, it is the first issue on his campaign website, and it is something he is campaigning about day in and day out. Please continue reading Shervin's thoughts and plans below and then consider contributing to his grassroots campaign by clicking on the 2022 Blue America congressional thermometer below. And if you're one of the people who is complaining that the Squad isn't aggressive enough and isn't living up to your expectation-- you have found your man. Please give double or make your contribution recurring on a monthly basis.
To this day, many neighborhoods in the Valley and across L.A. are zoned almost exclusively for single-family homes. While the racial covenants may now be gone, the massive racial wealth gaps they created now operate as tools of de facto segregation. And we must be clear-- segregation didn't end with housing. Because public school funding is tied to property taxes, wealthier white neighborhoods get the lion's share of public school funds. Areas zoned for multi-family and affordable housing were-- and continue to be-- overwhelmingly located in more industrial areas with high rates of pollution, less urban canopy, and a higher concentration of food deserts. In other words, housing discrimination created a landscape that compounded the socioeconomic impacts of racism.
The generational impact has been disastrous. Today, L.A. ranks sixth nationwide for the most racially segregated metropolitan area. White households in Los Angeles have a median net worth of $355,000. By comparison, Black Angelenos have a net worth of $4,000. Black and Mexican Angelenos hold 1% of the total wealth of white Angelenos-- meaning one cent for every dollar of wealth held by a white household. Black Angelenos are 8% of our city population, but 34% of our chronically unhoused. As L.A.'s cost of living only continues to skyrocket, racial wealth gaps will only worsen with it. In the San Fernando Valley, the average home price is now north of $955,000-- shutting out low-income Black and brown Angelenos from homeownership. Over two-thirds of city and Valley residents are renters, yet someone would have to make more than twice the minimum wage to afford rent. And instead of investing in permanent supportive housing, the city is doubling down on criminalization of homelessness, with ordinances before city council that will outlaw sitting, sleeping, or laying in most areas.
Dismantling the horribly racist legacy of redlining requires intentionality. It requires policies like ending exclusionary zoning, lifting the two-decade long ban on federal funding for public housing, heavily investing in historically segregated neighborhoods to ensure housing, healthcare, education, and food security as human rights, and reversing years of chronic underfunding of federal housing voucher programs. We also cannot separate housing policy from healthcare, education, climate justice, and worker rights.
Politicians like Brad Sherman work to maintain the racist legacy of redlining. Brad chairs the Investor Protection Subcommittee on Financial Services, which has jurisdiction over federal housing finance laws. As chair, he has taken tens of thousands in campaign donations from Wall Street corporate landlords like BlackRock and Blackstone, who are responsible for purchasing up to 1 in 5 single-family homes nationwide and exacerbating housing affordability. Brad hasn't championed a single progressive housing policy in his 24 years in office, and won't even co-sponsor bills like the Green New Deal for Public Housing.
Our campaign is proudly running to advocate for a Homes Guarantee, single-payer healthcare, climate justice, living wages tied to cost of living, and much more. We deserve a real progressive advocate for structural change in our D+18 district that Bernie Sanders won with 44,000 votes in the 2020 primary.