BLACK VOICES

The Startling Effects Of Housing Discrimination In Ferguson

The St. Louis area is heavily segregated, and the reason why is no secret.

Ferguson has become a lynchpin of the #BlackLivesMatter movement since Michael Brown's death, but the city's issues run much deeper than just excessive police force. 

Of the U.S. metropolitan areas with large black populations, St. Louis, Missouri is one of the most segregated -- a product of years of explicit governmental policies and individual prejudiceswhich have played a role in the divide that persists between black and white residents of the area.

Between 1934 and 1968, redlining by the Federal Housing Administration made it virtually impossible to secure a loan as a black person, the effects of which are still visible in the St. Louis area (and many other neighborhoods across the U.S., for that matter).

"There's a legislative history that has embedded stereotypes and inferior statuses on on particular groups of people, African Americans being among them, that persist into the present day," University of Pennsylvania professor Camille Charles told HuffPost Live this week. "We can't just legislate those attitudes away. There is a history there that has to be reckoned with that we have to be willing to talk about."

Although the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968 to bar further housing discrimination, the effects of years of discriminatory policies remain entrenched. Even the St. Louis Housing Choice Voucher Program, formerly known as Section Eight, hasn't completely solved the problem, said Molly Metzger, a Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council board member.

"In theory, this program would help low income households become more integrated. But in reality, the constraints on the program are so incredibly rigid that it just sort of leaves a perpetuation of segregation," Metzger told HuffPost Live's Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani.

Housing providers have also been known to subtly turn prospective black renters away from certain properties, according to Fair Housing specialist Katina Combs.

"Discrimination today is very subtle. Oftentimes people have no idea that they've been victims of housing discrimination of any sort because it looks different now," Combs said. "It's with a smile. It's with a handshake. It's with a nice tone of voice."

For more, check out HuffPost Live's full conversation about housing discrimination here.   

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