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S10 E3: Transcript - Sacramento Divided

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Catherine Stifter From Capital Public Radio, this is The View From Here podcast.

[MUSIC]

Catherine Stifter This is our new series Place and Privilege. We've spent a year looking for the deep roots of Sacramento's housing crisis.

And exploring housing affordability in California's capitol.

This is Episode 3, Sacramento Divided, in which Cosmo Garvin continues his exploration of Sacramento’s diversity, integration and segregation.

Cosmo Garvin If you live in Sacramento, you know that we are proud of our diversity. Sacramento is regularly near the top of the list of the most ethnically and racially diverse cities in the nation. And that’s a big deal because the longer people live in communities that are more diverse, more integrated, the better they tend to do in life.

Dan Rinzler So if a poor child moves from Milwaukee to Sacramento at age five instead of at age 10 they will probably on average earn more as an adult, be more likely to attend college, to get married, to avoid single parenthood and so on.

In other words, Sacramento families have greater economic mobility than families in more segregated communities.

Cosmo Garvin That’s Dan Rinzler, he’s a policy researcher with the California Housing Partnership Corporation, which works to preserve affordable housing in the state.

So many cities that are quite diverse overall like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago are quite segregated as well.

Dan Rinzler So Sacramento is both diverse and relatively integrated. So in that sense it's kind of a unicorn ... relative to other diverse cities and metropolitan areas.

Cosmo Garvin So, Sacramento is a unicorn of diversity of integration. Let’s all give ourselves a pat on the back. What say you?

Bill Kennedy Well we're clearly a segregated community.

Cosmo Garvin That’s Bill Kennedy, an attorney and advocate, these days he works with the Healthy Sacramento Coalition, which is trying to eliminate health inequities in the region.

Bill Kennedy Part of the problem in our discussion in Sacramento is people equate diversity with inclusion. They equate diversity with integration and it's just not the case. ..you can see that we are in fact moving in the wrong direction.

Cosmo Garvin So which is it? Integrated or segregated? How do we measure segregation? And what should we do about it?

Cosmo Garvin In fact, governments in the Sacramento region are beginning the process of answering these questions, because they have to, in order to comply with a particular fair housing rule put in place in the final years of the Obama administration. Now, it remains to be seen if the rule will survive the Trump administration. Or if it will really have any success in creating more inclusive, less segregated communities.

Cosmo Garvin So, are we segregated?

Robin Datel Well like many things. It's relative.

Cosmo Garvin That’s Robin Datel, a geography professor at Sacramento State University.

Robin Datel Sacramento just recently, that is using data from the prior decennial census of 2010, turns out to be as a city considered to be quite diverse and also quite well integrated. The situation for the larger metropolitan area which is a multi-county region, probably not quite so rosy.

Robin Datel There’s a great online tool put out by University of Virginia, called the Racial Dot Map, which shows the entire American population represented in different color dots. One person per dot. So, White people are blue dots. African Americans are green dots, Asians red, Hispanics a kind of orange color.

Cosmo Garvin It is sort of endlessly fascinating to me to zoom around the country and see the patterns. If you zoom out and look at the whole country at once, it’s mostly blue. There’s a belt of greenish counties across the southeastern states, where African Americans are especially concentrated. A strong swath of red shows the Bay Area’s asian population.

Cosmo Garvin When you zoom in to to look at individual cities, especially cities back east, Detroit, Cleveland, Atlanta, you see very clear divisions between blue and green areas, the white and black neighborhoods.

Cosmo Garvin Sacramento is a little different. You can certainly see concentrations of different groups. Asian families are a strong presence in the Pocket Greenhaven area, and in southeast Sacramento. Lots of African American and Hispanic families in Oak Park. And some parts of the grid are kaleidoscopic blends of all the colors. From East Sacramento out to Folsom and beyond is a ribbon of blue with other colors sprinkled in here and there. But overall, Sacramento’s dot map is more blended than a lot of other places.

Cosmo Garvin Social scientists have ways of measuring that blending.

Robin Datel The most common one is called the Index of Dissimilarity. ...So if let's just take blacks and whites: If they live in completely separate neighborhoods then you would have a an index of 100. And what that means is 100 percent of either blacks or whites would have to move to a different location in order for integration to occur. American cities, in terms of black white segregation, tend to range from 40 to 80 somewhere in that, you know that's the sort of range out of out of 100 which would be the highest possible. And 0 which would be the lowest possible.

Cosmo Garvin Blacks and whites have the highest indexes, they integrate less than any other groups.

Cosmo Garvin According to data from HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the dissimilarity index for Sacramento metro area for blacks and whites, is about 58 percent. Meaning, About 58 percent of one group would need to move to be distributed evenly. The City of Sacramento is a bit more integrated than the region, the index is about 48 percent. By comparison, the index for city of Los Angeles is about 70 percent, so much more segregated. In Atlanta it's about 71 percent. In the Detroit metro region it's almost 77 percent. That means about ¾ of black families or white families would have to move in order to live in fully integrated neighborhoods.

Cosmo Garvin There are a few possible explanations for the fact that Sacramento is comparatively well integrated. It’s a younger city. It’s a smaller city. In cities where blacks are a higher portion of the overall population, the segregation index tends to be higher.

Cosmo Garvin It turns out that the amount of segregation in your city makes a big difference in people’s lives.

Cosmo Garvin For example, studies show that if a region is less segregated by race and income, low income children have been more likely to move up the economic ladder

Cosmo Garvin Economic mobility also varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. You may have heard of the Moving to Opportunity experiment that HUD did several years ago.

Dan Rinzler Poor children who moved out of very poor neighborhoods during their childhood childhoods sometimes only for a year or two earned 31% more as adults than those who stayed behind. These kids mothers experienced reductions in diabetes and extreme obesity and major depression that were on par with the most successful clinical trials. And there is just a mountain of research at this point showing that poor poor kids do much better in racially and economically integrated schools than they do in high poverty schools. And so for each of these outcomes the longer people stay in well resourced neighborhoods the better their outcomes are over time. Not to mention that all of these better outcomes actually save the government money in the form of higher taxes and lower medical costs and so on. [91.7]

Cosmo Garvin Here’s the thing, integration may have stalled out in Sacramento, and we may be getting more segregated. This is what Bill Kennedy alluded to earlier. If you look at Sacramento’s dissimilarity index numbers, it’s a mixed picture. Black and white segregation trended down slightly from 1990 to 2010. But Hispanics and whites are more segregated since 1990. Same for whites and all nonwhites.

Bill Kennedy There was a point in time and I would say from the 80s through the early 90s Sacramento was moving towards towards integration. But we certainly in the last 30 years have been moving in the wrong direction. When looking at race and ethnicity, we we are finding that the people of color are concentrated in in more communities, communities with less opportunity.

Cosmo Garvin And there are a lot of reasons that segregation may persist. Kennedy says our land use policies reinforce segregation. In another part of this project, I reported about the difficulty of using a housing voucher to find an apartment in a good neighborhood. There are often land use rules that make it hard to build affordable housing in higher income neighborhoods. And to some extent gentrification is driving out poor people from of neighborhoods close to the urban core, making it harder for those families to access jobs, transportation and other amenities.

Richard Rothstein The evil of segregation is not just that people are sorted by race, by ethnicity even by religion and by poverty. But they're sorted and put into communities where they have little opportunity. It's those opportunity pathways that are severed, that are ragged or never existed that create the the real harm of residential segregation.

[MUSIC]

Cosmo Garvin Government leaders have tried and often failed to fight residential segregation. And some of those battles are largely forgotten.

Richard Rothstein In 1968, Richard Nixon was elected president. ... He was a Republican and yet his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, a fellow by the name of George Romney, the father of the recent presidential candidate, was determined to remedy these constitutional violations.

Cosmo Garvin That’s Richard Rothstein, author of Color of Law, A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.

Cosmo Garvin HUD Secretary George Romney believed the Fair Housing Act of 1968 gave him authority to apply pressure to local governments to “affirmatively further fair housing” and build more inclusive communities

Cosmo Garvin In language that would be extraordinary today, Romney described the segregated suburbs as a “high-income white noose” around black neighborhoods.

Richard Rothstein And in the Nixon cabinet Secretary of Housing he developed a program called Open Communities in which he required suburbs to take steps to reverse the segregation that had been imposed by government.

Richard Rothstein And he threatened to withhold federal funds for the things that suburbs get money for for sidewalks for sewers for open space. Threatened to withhold federal funds from suburbs that did not repeal zoning ordinances that prohibited the construction of modest townhouses or homes on smaller lots, apartments. All zoning rules that were designed to keep African-Americans out of suburbs if suburbs didn't repeal those rules if they didn't permit the construction of moderate income housing he was going to withhold federal funds...President Nixon reined him in. Cancelled the Open Communities program and George Romney was forced out of the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development as a result.

Cosmo Garvin And so, that was the end of the Open Communities program, there was nothing like after. Until Barack Obama.

Richard Rothstein The Obama Administration in its last years, developed a rule called the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which returned to this policy that had been attempted by George Romney, requiring suburbs to develop plans to desegregate.

Cosmo Garvin In some way similar to the Romney initiative, Obama said that communities which receive federal housing funds have to come up with plans to reduce segregation in racially concentrated areas of poverty.

Cosmo Garvin According to HUD, the goal of this rule is nothing less than, “replacing segregated living patterns with truly integrated and balanced living patterns, transforming racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity.”

Cosmo Garvin And so, I’ve been really curious about how this process is going to play out in Sacramento.

Cosmo Garvin Locally, the success of Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing will be largely in the hands of the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, which will head up development of the regional Assessment of Fair Housing, due to be completed in 2019.

Cosmo Garvin I asked SHRA executive director La Shelle Dozier about the project.

La Shelle Dozier The region has really signed on. And SHRA is kind of the central hub and we are working with not just the city and county, but we're working with all of our partner cities within our jurisdiction. And we've all come together to collaborate. We also are working outside of our jurisdiction in the sense that everybody wants to be on the same page you know Yolo County, Sacramento. So it's really exciting in the sense that we have this collaboration

Cosmo Garvin In its plan Sacramento will be required to report on the state of neighborhood segregation, the disparities across neighborhoods, and goals for reducing those disparities. Some cities, like Philadelphia and New Orleans, have already been through the process. They have gotten input from thousands of residents, produced reports hundreds of pages thick, with dozens of goals to expand access to affordable housing and reduce residential segregation.

Cosmo Garvin I also talked to Veronica Beaty, she’s land use policy director at the Sacramento Housing Alliance. And she’s been following the Sacramento process closely.

Veronica Beaty This is supposed to be a very data driven process, right. So there's a huge chunk of federal research that's happened, that's available to the jurisdictions to look at. There's all kinds of local data they're trying to collect and integrate everything from records of where SHRA has used their funding to subsidize projects or developments, to where is well-served by RT. You're talking to other agencies looking at the schools, looking at school performance metrics to say Okay are we building more affordable housing in areas that have high performing schools. No.

Bill Kennedy Are people isolated from jobs? Are people isolated from good schools? Is transportation serving those needs? So that analysis is underway and over the next 18 months people should really get involved. The Healthy Sacramento Coalition, with which I work, is working now to prepare for hearings in the fall to talk about these issues and to talk about the inner relationship between so many of our policies: housing policy, land use policy, employment policy, investment policy, education, transportation. All of these things fit together.

Cosmo Garvin Obama’s ambitious new housing rule, perhaps not surprisingly, generated a lot of opposition.

Cosmo Garvin I read a piece on New york post, titled, “Obama’s last act is to force suburbs to be less white and less wealthy.”

Dan Rinzler New HUD secretary Ben Carson actually published an op-ed a couple of years ago calling the federal Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule social engineering, which I found to be ironic because segregation in metropolitan America is itself the result of decades of very careful social engineering through public policy and private action. And so any effort to counteract that other kind of social engineering to call it social engineering is sort of laughable, from my perspective.

Cosmo Garvin Nonetheless, Carson has indicated his readiness to “reinterpret” the rule, though it’s not clear what that may mean. And Republicans in congress have already introduced legislation to nullify the fair housing rule. One GOP bill would even ban federal funds from being used to provide the data it currently provides to local governments on racial disparities and unequal access to housing. Even if the rule stays in place, it seems unlikely the Trump administration will vigorously enforce it.

Cosmo Garvin On the other hand, there’s been a bill introduced in the California legislature to require cities to “affirmatively further fair housing,” even if the feds abandon the rule. And so far the Sacramento region is moving forward with its assessment of fair housing.

Cosmo Garvin But assuming Sacramento does complete the process, does that mean anything will change? Or will it go the way of other ambitious government plans that never get implemented?

Veronica Beaty Yeah I mean I go back and forth between like this is the most exciting possible thing all of this data and then it can get kind of dispiriting because it's like we're not in some ways we're lacking data. But in some ways like he said we know what the problems are and what we're lacking is political will. So this data can be, if this is what we need as a community to move forward with some of these solutions whether we knew them before or not. That's fantastic.

Veronica Beaty I would hate to say all this, see all this data collected, see it to go into this remarkable plan and then have that plan sit on the shelf.

[MUSIC]

Cosmo Garvin And Sacramento has a mixed history of fighting residential segregation. At the beginning of this century, local governments experimented with what are called inclusionary housing, or mixed income housing rules.

Bill Kennedy So from 1990 till about 2002, 2003 we went through, we went to cities and counties, I think 26, 28 jurisdictions in the Sacramento area, and we were fairly forceful in demanding that they address the racial ethnic isolation incurred by their current housing policies.

Cosmo Garvin Kennedy at the time was working as director of Legal Services of Northern California, which would sometimes sue local governments to enforce fair housing rules. And housing advocates were successful in getting several mixed income housing laws passed.

Veronica Beaty So inclusionary ordinances are a requirement that for developments really any side of developments that are particularly small for a certain number of market rate units you have to build a certain number of affordable units and deed-restrict them usually around 15 percent. So if you have a development with 100 new homes you'll have 15 of those be deed-restricted and affordable.

Cosmo Garvin The “inclusion” part of inclusionary housing is that the affordable housing had to be built right alongside the market rate units.

Veronica Beaty Yeah the idea of inclusionary ordinances was to combat the concentration of poverty and the concentration of affordable housing in particular neighborhoods. So this was kind of a means of creating really inclusive neighborhoods and integrating affordable housing throughout any areas the city was growing in.

Cosmo Garvin In 2000 the City adopted an inclusionary rule requiring 5 percent of new housing units to be affordable to families that qualified as “low-income,” and ten percent needed to be affordable to “very low income” families, those making less than half of the median household income. The rules just applied to “new growth” areas, like North Natomas, where brand new neighborhoods were being built. Sacramento County put even more aggressive rules in place, requiring 5 percent of new units be affordable to “extremely low-income” households, those making less than 30 percent of the median income.

Greg Sandlund And so that started in 2000. Right anticipating right before the big spike in production.

Cosmo Garvin That’s Greg Sandlund, he’s a senior planner with the City of Sacramento.

Greg Sandlund The purpose was to have mixed income communities, inclusive communities and it was a very productive ordinance. It produced between 2000-2008 about 1500 affordable units in North Natomas, South Sacramento.

Cosmo Garvin Is that a lot?

Greg Sandlund It's a significant amount for sure. It helped meet our regional housing needs allocation goal. Around that time also a lot of ordinances were being adopted up and down the state.

Cosmo Garvin But then a series of different events undermined Sacramento’s experiment in inclusion. Developers and builders never like the rules. In 2008 the recession hit.

Cosmo Garvin Then in 2009, a California court found that inclusionary ordinances for apartments was basically an unconstitutional form of rent control.
Cosmo Garvin And while some mixed income developments were done well, with the affordable and market rates units blended together almost unnoticeably, other projects drew opposition from neighbors.

Greg Sandlund The residents of North Natomas expressed a lot of frustration with the concentration of affordable housing, the size of the developments. So that became a key issue for them.

Greg Sandlund They wanted to see, they didn't want to see more affordable housing these large affordable housing units built in large towns.

Cosmo Garvin Like large complexes, multi family units?

Greg Sandlund Right. Right. Made that loud and clear if you do build it make them smaller and have them separated. So that became an issue.

Cosmo Garvin Then, in 2012, the California state legislature got rid of redevelopment agencies, which meant Sacramento, and other regions, each lost millions in redevelopment funds which were being used to help subsidize affordable housing. Trying to replace that money is one of the main problems facing Sacramento officials housing advocates today.

Greg Sandlund Inclusionary housing can be an effective tool if you have a market that's producing moderate income housing, you have adequate subsidies to help pay for your requirement and that the product that comes out is is smaller. And it's it's mixed in well with the community so there's that implementation component. I think certainly it's a it's a it's a tool to fight segregation but you need to have all those all that all those components in place.

Cosmo Garvin So in 2015 the City scrapped its inclusionary housing rules, the County ended it’s mixed income experiment the year before. Both instead went with a fee charged to builders on every new housing unit. It would be used to subsidize construction of new affordable housing. The City’s fee was set at $2.68 per square foot.

Veronica Beaty The fee is too low to produce housing at the same rate an inclusionary ordinance would. We're probably around functioning like a 5 percent inclusionary ordinance.

Cosmo Garvin Sacramento Housing Alliance argued that the fee would need to be set at at least 9 to 12 dollars in order to produce the same number of affordable units as the old inclusionary housing law.

Greg Sandlund Well we were concerned about the fee being too high that would discourage housing development. As someone who assesses the fee I hear quite a lot about you know from people pulling building permits that are surprised and shocked [by how high it is] how high it is. Yeah. I mean sure. The fee is certainly not enough to produce the affordable housing we need. But I don't think we can expect that fee to do that. I think we need to look at other ways to subsidize housing locally as well.

[MUSIC]

Cosmo Garvin The reason I tell the story of Sacramento’s inclusionary ordinance is that it was explicitly about inclusion, about building less segregated communities.

Cosmo Garvin And for many people, it’s certainly not a given that we should be doing that at all. Inclusionary laws have been criticized on the same grounds as Obama’s fair housing rules, as social engineering, as government telling people what kinds of neighborhoods they can live in.

Cosmo Garvin But at this point it seems that, in California at least, local governments will have to reckon with the problem of segregation, at least to some extent.

Cosmo Garvin There are no shortage of policy ideas. Some cities and states have made it illegal to turn away a tenant just because they have a housing voucher. Housing agencies, like SHRA can do a better job of helping voucher families move to high opportunity neighborhoods. One approach being considered is called Mobility Counseling.

La Shelle Dozier We really have to look at where our families live. You know what are those census tracts, what are the poverty rates that they live in? And really start to work and encourage them to move to those areas that have areas of more opportunity and better schools and that's what that Mobility Counseling is all about.

La Shelle Dozier Sometimes our families tend to live where their support network is which makes sense but that support network may be in an area that has an over-concentration of poverty. So how do we build those supports in other communities that makes it easier and more comfortable for them to move into those areas. Those are the types of things that we'll be working on and is a part of that initiative.

Cosmo Garvin The lack of housing supply, the lack of funding sources for affordable housing, are likely also important pieces of the puzzle. And you can hear discussions of those problems, elsewhere in this project.

Cosmo Garvin I was also intrigued by something Bill Kennedy suggested. He says that in order to decrease inequality, Sacramento’s leaders need to measure the effects of the decisions they make.

Bill Kennedy But here Cosmo is one of the things that's so frustrating. Every one of our elected officials will claim allegiance to inclusion. And they will, and they believe it, but they don't measure it. They don't measure their policies against those commitments, those values. And they launch policies all the time that turned out disparate outcomes and then they wring their hands and say wow what can we do?

What I think has to happen in this region and what has happened in many other countries and many cities and many counties in this nation is we need to do racial impact statements whenever we do a policy, whenever we do a new development, measure at the time we launch, that is the racial impact of this policy. Because if we don't do that we're saying it's unimportant. If our local leaders are really concerned about the expanding segregation, and particularly segregation from opportunity, then they would institute policies that would measure that, but they haven't done that.

[MUSIC]

Cosmo Garvin One of the things that surprised about this reporting was the notion that things could get worse. That inequality could get worse, that segregation can get worse. I know rationally of course that’s possible. Worsening income inequality is something we’ve known about for a long time. The idea that racial segregation could be getting worse, even in a city like Sacramento. That really got my attention.

Bill Kennedy There was a point where we did make progress. But now we've slid back and we continue to slide back. Our last 20 years here have been a slide back into further and further segregation.

Cosmo Garvin I just want to underline this because, I guess if you'd asked me a few months ago even, I'd have thought, well there were policies, government policies that produced segregation and we're still dealing with that and we're trying to untangle ourselves from that. But that's different than saying that we, government policies are still creating segregation and are still making segregation worse.

Bill Kennedy That's what I'm saying. That is true and I believe our land use policies do foster segregation. I think in... Here I think we also have to understand the thought process that goes into this. I'm not saying that people are sitting in, say Folsom, and saying that you know we created this great white suburb. We're going to allow a little bit of integration here, but how do we maintain the whiteness of Folsom. No one is sitting around saying that. But as they expand below Highway 50, and look at what they're building there, they're building for the top 30 percent. They're building for that part of the socio-economic strata that is largely white. The question is if you if you ask them whether that's their intent, of course that's not their intent. But it's very clear when they make the decision that that's the outcome.

Cosmo Garvin In the last episode, Jesus Hernandez talked about Sacramento’s “racial geography.”

Jesus Hernandez And this by this X, by this racial geography you can measure every social ill in our city today. Poverty, crime, educational attainment, employment, health care.

Cosmo Garvin The historians and housing experts that I talked to say that that geography, those patterns of segregation, didn’t happen by accident. They happened because they were actively guided by government policy. And without active policy pushing in the other direction, they say, segregation will persist, maybe get worse.

Catherine Stifter Cosmo, thanks for distilling so many viewpoints into this podcast. If we’ve learned anything in the past year of studying housing affordability, it’s how intricately complicated it all is. And how much new policies must take into consideration the policies of the past and the outcomes of those decisions on individuals who live in our communities.

So let me ask you, where do you think we’re headed here in Sacramento?

Cosmo Garvin Well, in the fall, we’ll see the local governments around the Sacramento region start to engage the public around this Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing process. SHRA will be gathering public comments, there will be public meetings, and groups like the Healthy Sacramento Coalition, and the Sacramento Housing Alliance will be out there trying to get people involved as well. And who knows what kinds of policies will come out of this, if any. It really depends on who shows up to take part in the process, and what kinds of actions our elected leaders are moved to take.

Catherine Stifter Cosmo, thanks for bringing us another chapter of Sacramento's affordable housing story.

[MUSIC]

Catherine Stifter Next on Episode 4. Not Up To Code

Tim King Clip Some of the probably the worst cockroach infestations I've ever been in. Most of the flooring was moving when you'd walk in. So I mean it wasn't like you had one or two, like the floor was literally moving.

Catherine Stifter You've been listening to The View From Here podcast.

Place and Privilege. Episode 3, Sacramento Divided.

Produced by Cosmo Garvin.

Music by PRVLGS.

You can find previous podcast episodes at TheViewFromHere.org

Where you can also find more stories, affordable housing resources and information about our live community storytelling events.

Follow us on social media at the hashtag #ViewOnHousing

This is The View From Here.

From Capital Public Radio.

I'm Catherine Stifter.

Thanks for listening.

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