THE BLOG
03/05/2014 06:25 pm ET Updated May 05, 2014

Spike is Right! Housing Discrimination is NYC's Hidden Disgrace (Pt 2)

Imagine an able-bodied, gainfully employed, pleasant white man. Let's call him Neal. He's seeking a NYC rental apartment. The superintendent shows him around and says, "I've been doing this for 30 years in this building. I've never let one black person live here yet."

Neal nods his head in agreement, even though he doesn't agree at all. He is actually an undercover agent with the Fair Housing Justice Center. Neal's colleague, a black woman, will visit this same building shortly after. She will be told that there are no apartments available. And that will be a lie.

This isn't from a Spike Lee film, although Spike dramatizes such truths. This is real life. "Testers," like Neal, work for the Fair Housing Justice Center. With undercover agents like Neal, Fair Housing Justice Center has exposed an epidemic of housing discrimination on the basis of skin color, disability, source of income and LGBTQ identity. What do I mean by epidemic? I mean they've detected housing discrimination in every single NYC neighborhood, in all five boroughs (and surrounding counties). But more than exposing it, the Fair Housing Justice Center fights housing discrimination and wins.

Why does housing discrimination matter? Because location determines school zones, pollution levels, park spaces, retail conveniences, community resources and more.

See Bill Kavanagh's searing film, A Matter of Place, which explains why neighborhoods all over the USA are still segregated. Share it with anyone who believes every citizen is free to live in any home they can afford in 21st Century America. Share it with anyone who says racism is over. Share it with anyone who cares about civil rights.

A MATTER OF PLACE from Fred Freiberg on Vimeo.

A Matter of Place features interviews with Nikole Hannah-Jones of ProPublica, Diane L. Houk of Fair Housing Justice Center, Professor Olatunde Johnson of Columbia Law School, and Lance Freeman, Director of Urban Planning at the Columbia School of Architecture. A Matter of Place was produced by the Fair Housing Justice Center, HUD, and filmmaker Bill Kavanagh. Below is a synopsis from Fair Housing Justice Center:

The film connects past struggles for fair housing to contemporary incidents of housing bias based on race, sexual orientation, disability, and source of income, and presents three stories of people who faced housing discrimination in present-day New York City. They poignantly describe the injuries inflicted on them during these incidents, as well as their resolve to fight for justice. Through experts, civil rights advocates, and fair housing testers, the film also recounts our nation's often overlooked history of residential segregation and introduces viewers to systemic and pervasive injustices that, despite the existence of fair housing laws, continue to inflict harm on entire communities and individuals throughout America.