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Housing Matters: Uneven Ground

Samuel Gunter, Executive Director

Anyone who has heard me speak publicly on affordable housing issues in this state has probably heard me say some version of, “You cannot tell the story of housing in this country without telling the story of segregation.” Recently the decline in the black homeownership rate has received quite a bit of media attention as well as policy responses from current presidential candidates. You can read more about the growing focus on housing policy in the 2020 presidential race in our Policy Update. While this is a national story, it is also intimately local story, and one that is being told in my city of Durham. 

This year Durham turns 150 years old. In honor of this milestone, BullCity 150 has been examining the history of racial and economic injustice since the city’s founding. As part of that exploration they have curated an exhibit chronicling the city’s history of land use and housing policy that had profound impacts that are still part of our lived environment. The exhibit, “Uneven Ground,” is currently on display at the Durham County Department of Public Health office, which identified affordable housing as a top health priority during its Community Health Assessment in 2017. The exhibit is on the 2nd floor lobby and will be on display until early September.

The portion of the exhibit that narrates the dismantling of Hayti, is important for the work each of our organizations is engaged in. While each of us might not be able to marshall such incredible data and storytelling tools, knowing this history for our own communities is critical to ensure our work is about building equity… both the kind you can build through homeownership, but just as importantly the kind that builds the collective resources of communities and neighborhoods most impacted by this history. 

The work of this exhibit is a timely reminder as a potential policy change is circulating at HUD that will increase the number of criteria that must be met to file a fair housing complaint. We will inform you on ways to comment on the policy once it is posted. 

We would love to hear from you. What does your organization to to reckon with the history of housing and segregation in your community? How does it inform your work? Has your staff participated in a race equity training process? Is it a story other people in your organization know and can tell? Share your story here.  

Recommended read

Policy Update 8-9-19

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