How Racism Shaped the Housing Crisis & What We Can Do About It

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SPUR San Francisco

654 Mission St

San Francisco, CA 94105

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You're invited to a special event hosted by Shareable and SPUR the evening of November 6th exploring how racism shaped the housing crisis, why this history is relevant today, and solutions that take this history into account. This is a must attend event if you're interested in the deeper roots of the housing crisis and the deeper solutions that should follow.

The evening will feature a keynote speech by Richard Rothstein based on his acclaimed book, “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.” This will be followed by a panel discussion exploring solutions moderated by Noni Session, Executive Director of East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative with Chris Iglesias, Executive Director of Unity Council; Sarah Jo Szambelan, Research Director at SPUR and leader of their place types research; and Richard Rothstein.

Come at 6pm sharp to enjoy drinks, appetizers, and an exhibition before the program starts. The exhibition will showcase SPUR’s place types research and a timeline of key housing policy decisions that have shaped today’s housing crisis. See below for more information on the program:


Program:

6:00 - 6:30: Reception with drinks and appetizers. Enjoy the exhibition of SPUR's place types work and a housing policy timeline.

6:30 - 6:40: SPUR welcome. Program introduction by Neal Gorenflo, Executive Director of Shareable

6:40 - 7:15: Keynote by Richard Rothstein, author of “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America”, and Distinguished Fellow at the Economic Policy Institute, who will share research from his acclaimed book on the racist history of US housing policy.

7:15 - 7:55: Panel discussion moderated by Noni Session, Executive Director of East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative. Panelist include Chris Iglesias, Executive Director of Unity Council; Sarah Jo Szambelan, Research Manager and lead of SPUR’s place types work; and Richard Rothstein.

7:55 - 8:35: Audience Q&A and conclusion

8:35 - 9:00: Want more? Stay for breakout discussions with each speaker. Richard Rothstein will be available for book signings.


Historical background:

While the single family house is central to the American Dream, this dream didn’t emerge organically from the desires of ordinary Americans. It was aggressively promoted, regulated, and financed into existence through a hodgepodge of local, state, and federal government efforts starting over 100 years ago. As a result, the single family house became America’s dominant housing type and aspired to ideal. Yet, this manufactured dream and its complicated evolution masks a deeply racist history.

The dream was built on the foundation of exclusionary zoning, which specifies one house and family per lot. Exclusionary zoning and more were used to exclude African Americans from white neighborhoods and relegate them to relatively small, crowded, and chronically underinvested areas in cities across the US. This shadow apartheid not only contributed significantly to huge wealth and other disparities between black and white Americans, it also laid the foundation for the housing crisis we face today in San Francisco and other job-rich metros.

Around 75% of urban land in the Bay Area is zoned single family according to SPUR. This is typical of American cities. This extremely wasteful use of land has played a central role in making housing unnecessarily expensive and scarce, not to mention contributing to wealth inequality, segregation, climate change, social isolation, and more.

However, the day of reckoning may have arrived. Many cities and states face such severe housing shortages that this bulwark of the American dream is being reconsidered. Minneapolis banned single family zoning citywide last year, a historic first. Oregon, California, several major cities, and even some presidential candidates are looking at residential zoning reform. It’s a miracle that this trend is going nationwide in a land where NIMBYism has ruled, but it seems we’re unprepared to take advantage of this rare opportunity for change.

Public discourse rarely reflects the racist history of US housing or knowledge of more successful housing paradigms elsewhere. If we don't enrich our discourse, zoning reform could make inequality, segregation, and affordability worse. We could also miss the opportunity to address past systemic injustices and other urgent challenges inextricably tied to housing.

We can’t afford to miss these opportunities, yet housing discourse and solutions stay stubbornly within the paradigm that created the crisis -- housing is widely viewed as a commodity, not a right and an investment in human development, sustainability, and society building.

To explore this history, what it could mean for solutions to the housing crisis, and help shape this historic moment into one that creates more justice and equity, Shareable and SPUR are presenting the above program the evening of November 6th. Please join our discussion and share your ideas for creating a more equitable, affordable housing future.


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Media disclaimer: Shareable reserves the right to use any photographs and video taken at this event without the expressed written permission of those included in the photographs and video. If you don't want your image used, please let the photographer and/or Shareable know.

Header photo is an aerial shot of Palo Alto, California courtesy of Craig Howell through a Creative Commons license.

Shareable is thankful for the support of our sponsors who helped fund this event along with our donors and foundation funders:

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Date and Time

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SPUR San Francisco

654 Mission St

San Francisco, CA 94105

View Map

Refund Policy

No Refunds

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