Research Finds Significant Racial Inequalities in Public Subsidized Housing

A new study by scholars at the University of Illinois Chicago, Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, and Washington University in St. Louis finds quantitative evidence of widespread racial inequities in public subsidized housing. The inequality is apparent in unit safety, total cost, affordability — defined as percent of income spent on rent — and segregation.

Using restricted 2017 American Housing Survey data provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the researchers found that Black subsidized renters, on average, pay $75 more per month than their White counterparts — a 17 percent upcharge. Black subsidized renters live in units with more unsafe conditions while simultaneously paying more, both in total cost and relative to their income, researchers said. They also live in neighborhoods that are more racially isolated when compared with White subsidized renters and the housing market as a whole.

“Federally subsidized public housing is the most cost-effective and efficient way to ensure millions of Americans have access to affordable, safe housing — it is an essential safety net in the United States,” said Elizabeth Korver-Glenn, an assistant professor of sociology at Washington University and a co-author of the study. “However, our research shows that we still have work to do to reform and reinvent the program in a way that ensures equal access in compliance with fair housing legislation. The racial inequalities we found in the subsidized housing market are even greater than those in the private housing market.”

Dr. Korver-Glenn added that “it is time for our government to once and for all close loopholes and adopt new practices that will ensure equitable and fair housing practices for all low-income subsidized renters. We can and must do better.”

The full study, “Still Separate and Unequal: Persistent Racial Segregation and Inequality in Subsidized Housing,” was published on the website of the journal Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World. It may be accessed here.


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