22 April 2010

Fair housing on the big screen

Movies have a way of starting conversations. Here's one we think is worth seeing and talking about. It's called "The House We Live In," and takes a look at the ways, as a PBS Web site on the documentary puts it, "our institutions and policies advantage some groups at the expense of others."

"The House We Live In" was originally part of a three-part series called "Race: The Power of an  Illusion," which first aired on PBS stations in 2003. The film follows the history of the way different generations of immigrants were accepted into the melting pot that is America. In particular, it looks at the way housing policy after World War II created segregated communities. Again, from the PBS site:
"Real estate practices and federal government regulations directed government-guaranteed loans to white homeowners and kept non-whites out, allowing those once previously considered "not quite white" to blend together and reap the advantages of whiteness, including the accumulation of equity and wealth as their homes increased in value. Those on the other side of the color line were denied the same opportunities for asset accumulation and upward mobility."
And what has been the long-term consequence of that, some 60 years later?
"Today, the net worth of the average Black family is about 1/8 that of the average white family. Much of that difference derives from the value of the family's residence. Houses in predominantly white areas sell for much more than those in Black, Hispanic or integrated neighborhoods, and so power, wealth, and advantage - or the lack of it - are passed down from parent to child. Wealth isn't just luxury or profit; it's the starting point for the next generation."
What should we do about that in York County? The York City Human Relations Commission will present a screening of the movie at 6 p.m. April 28 at the Strand Theatre to explore that question. Come see the movie, and join the panel discussion that will follow; YorkCounts Director James DeBord is among the participants. YorkCounts has stated its support for a community goal of increasing affordable housing options across the county and ending the practice of concentrating the poor disproportionately in York City.

- Dan Fink