On the occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, progress towards the Act’s goals of non-discrimination and integration is uneven. On both fronts, the last fifty years have seen some progress, but by several accounts more progress has been made on the anti-discrimination front than in advancing integration. The last fifty years have also given us a wealth of knowledge about the types of policy and planning devices — such as mobility voucher programs and inclusionary zoning — that might help achieve the goal of integration and ample data about the harms of segregation versus integration’s benefits. But what remains elusive is the political economy—understanding what will persuade, encourage, and compel governments and communities to adopt integration-advancing remedies, and how these policies might endure. The persistence of segregation seems overdetermined: the political, market, and legal incentives point largely away from integration. Segregation, though constructed and sustained by traceable government and institutional decisions, is often cast as a natural and inevitable product of geography; indeed, obscuring the mechanisms that created and sustained segregation seems part of the plan. The attempt to reverse course and move towards integration inevitably seems forced and top-down, disruptive of natural arrangements, market mechanisms, and individual choice. Even supporters of integration remedies often cast existing efforts largely as failures.
This Article shifts the question of how to achieve integration away from the technocratic questions of planning and policy devices, however important, to the equally important questions of political economy — how to move a legal and political infrastructure that is engineered for segregation towards integration. No doubt this question is not fully answerable in a short Article and perhaps at all. Yet, it might be possible to gather some of what is already known about the dynamics of social change towards integration, build on that knowledge, and find openings in current law, politics, and social movements for charting a future course of action. The spirit of the Article is against the prevailing narrative of despair in fair housing, examining (1) where top-down litigation might have contributed to enduring housing reform; (2) local governments that reject the incentives towards exclusion to adopt inclusionary legal and regulatory infrastructures and regulation; and (3) where communities are organizing for bottom-up legal and regulatory reforms outside of courts.
Housing Law | Law
Olatunde C. Johnson,
"Social Engineering": Notes on the Law and Political Economy of Integration,
Cardozo L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/3659