How Affordable Housers Perpetuate Past Harms, and How They Can Do Better

Some elements of affordable housing—from the development process to the way buildings are managed—are rooted in racist assumptions that dehumanize residents. Here are some simple ways you can be a better housing provider.

2 minute read

December 9, 2021, 11:00 AM PST

By LM_Ortiz

Affordable Housing

trekandshoot / Shutterstock

Many mission-driven affordable housing providers view the creation of quality, affordable homes as one opportunity to right past wrongs. Decades of redlining, segregation, and a lack of economic and sociopolitical opportunities have negatively affected the lives of people of color.

However, too often we fail to recognize that some elements of affordable housing—from the development process to the way buildings are managed—are rooted in racist assumptions that dehumanize residents. Many times, the people who lead the decision-making around development and operations are not the ones with direct insight and expertise as to what it’s like to actually live in affordable housing. That disconnect can compound harmful policies and practices around everything from building design to the way that management communicates with residents.

How can we as a field expect to improve the quality, conditions, and inclusivity of a property without robust input from residents? Dissecting and addressing these challenges requires a critical eye, openness, the desire to improve, and a willingness to undergo a long, hard look at the ways even well-meaning housing organizations cause residents harm and undermine any mission to promote equity.

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