Frequently Asked Questions
Got questions? We’ve got answers!
Got questions? We’ve got answers!
The goal of the Columbia Housing Center is to sustain Columbia’s residential integration so that all of Columbia is attractive and welcoming to all ethnic and racial groups.
Columbia is a remarkably diverse and integrated community as compared to our region, which is highly segregated. Of Columbia’s census tracts, more than 2/3 reflect the region’s overall balance of black, white, Asian and Latino residents, while only 9 percent of the region’s census tracts do.
However, a worrisome trend of pockets of racial segregation is emerging in our community. Now is the time to promote the racial integration that has distinguished our community. We know — based on national experience — that if an area is no longer seen as desirable by one or more racial groups, that loss of demand affects not only home values and other measures of prosperity, but the very sprit of a place.
As a rental housing locator service, the Columbia Housing Center will help landlords find tenants and tenants find homes. It will also provide training and educational programming.
A Typical Housing Search
A Search by a Housing Center Client
Yes. In Oak Park, Illinois (outside Chicago). Faced with rapid racial change 50 years ago (about the same time Columbia was being founded), residents of Oak Park created a Housing Center to cultivate Oak Park as a stable, integrated community. Their model has been remarkably successful: at least two-thirds of people who go to the Oak Park Housing Center end up making moves that improve the integration of their community.
Oak Park has sustained higher property values as compared to its less integrated neighboring communities, and the Housing Center has enjoyed steady municipal support from its founding through to today – a testament to the impact of this proactive approach.
Yes, it certainly is. In Oak Park, the Housing Center works with local real estate agents to encourage homebuyers to consider homes throughout their town and we want to do that in Columbia, too. The Columbia Housing Center will initially focus on rental housing because it’s easier to set up a central referral service for rental homes, and because renters move more often and can have a quicker impact on the integration (or segregation) of a community.
Given historic racial disparities in wealth, affordable housing is an important component of racial integration. In fact, agencies that distribute funds for affordable housing (like HUD, the State of Maryland, and local jurisdictions and housing agencies) have a duty under the Fair Housing Act to operate their programs in a way that counters historic racial segregation patterns.
The Columbia Housing Center will be designed to promote racial integration regardless of income and will be a voice helping to ensure that local affordable housing policy supports the goal of a racially integrated Columbia.
Affirmative marketing is a practice whereby an entity, like the Columbia Housing Center, engages in race-conscious marketing in order to provide home seekers with information regarding properties they might not ordinarily know of or consider, with the goal of increasing integration.
Yes. For over 25 years, federal courts have held that affirmative marketing is permissible under the FHA. The Columbia Housing Center voluntarily engages in affirmative marketing practices to encourage individuals to broaden their housing search, and thereby encourage a diverse and integrated community. In addition, the Center ensures that its marketing programs do not limit housing opportunities or grant preferences based on any protected class and neither excludes nor deters any prospective homebuyers or tenants. For more information on how affirmative marketing is not only legal, but also advances the intentions of the FHA, please see South-Suburban Housing Center v. Greater South Suburban Board of Realtors, 935 F.2d 868 (7th Cir. 1991).
You can help with outreach to constituencies and stakeholders to explain the need to retain and sustain Columbia as an integrated community. You may have ideas for how to effectively develop relationships that will be helpful. Perhaps you have expertise that will help the Columbia Housing Center get started (administrative, legal, financial, fundraising). You might even join a Board committee. To get involved in the Columbia Housing Center or to learn more, contact us. Tax deductible donations can be made here.