Weather-Change and City of Beaverton Followup

Only a few days ago, it was overcast and chilly here in Oregon. Now it’s sunny and warm. I blame Weather-Change. Actually, under these circumstances, I appreciate Weather-Change; it encouraged me to make my first pilgrimage to one of my favorite rivers this year: The Wilson River:

A while ago, I wrote about the City of Beaverton caring only about its non-white residents. I promised a followup if I heard back from them with specifics. Here’s the email I just received:

Thank you for reaching out and asking for clarification. There are multiple areas in the affordable housing development program where we want to have policies that enhance accessibility by BIPOC communities:

Screening criteria: encourage affordable housing providers to tailor screening criteria for prospective tenants are narrowly and specifically tailored to meet specific objectives and not disproportionately impact BIPOC residents

Marketing of available units: ensure availability of units are marketed specifically to BIPOC organizations and communities

Contracting: ensure COBID firms (minority, women, emerging small business and disabled veteran firms) benefit from contracting opportunities for design, construction and management of affordable housing

Outreach: at all stages of program and project implementation, ensure that activities are shared and informed by BIPOC communities

With guidelines and policies such as these, it’s clear that non-whites are given special consideration in Beaverton, when it comes to housing. I’m not an attorney, and I don’t know if marketing that specifically targets an ethnic group (in this case, non-whites) is technically illegal, but it certainly violates the spirit of the law. It looks a lot like “steering:”

Steering is carried out by real estate agents and brokers when they “steer” one race of home buyers to a particular neighborhood, while channeling buyers of another race to a different neighborhood. While it is commonly thought of in terms of entire communities, steering can also occur within a single community, where certain races are discouraged from purchasing some units within a complex. Steering violates the FHA because it denies potential homebuyers choices in their location of dwelling. It also works to establish and maintain segregated housing.

Hypothetically, if a municipality had a policy to market specifically to whites, while making no effort to market to non-whites, the outcry and lawsuits would be deafening.

Regarding the first item in the email, “Screening criteria,” my understanding is that they want to ensure that criminal background checks, credit checks etc. won’t have a disparate impact on non-whites. The only way to do this is to either a) forego such screening altogether, or b) hold non-whites to lower standards. Either way, the result is predictable: Residents will be vulnerable to criminal activity, and landlords will suffer loses. There is no way to avoid this.

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