The Dream Revisited
Discussion 17: Community Preferences and Fair Housing

Discussion 17: Community Preferences and Fair Housing

November 2015

The seventeenth discussion debates the extent to which preferences in neighborhood residents in accessing new affordable housing promote or betray the goal of truly inclusionary communities. 


  • An Inclusionary Tool Created by Low-Income Communities for Low-Income Communities

    by Rafael Cestero

    When New York City helps finance the construction or renovation of affordable housing, it requires that in half of the affordable units the property developer give a preference to income-eligible residents of the community district where the property is built.  Fair housing advocates recently filed a lawsuit against the City, arguing that this community preference policy perpetuates segregation.  Although I share the commitment to furthering fair housing, I believe the lawsuit is misguided.


  • Community Preferences Discriminate

    by Errol Louis

    What purpose does the Community preferences policy serve? For Mr. Cestero it is about maintaining the “fabric” of a neighborhood when more affordable housing is built there. This is the same sort of “there goes the neighborhood” logic that brought about white flight and has foiled integration for decades. If integration is to happen, neighborhood “fabrics” simply cannot be preserved whole cloth.

  • The Community Preference Policy: An Unnecessary Barrier to Minorities’ Housing Rights

    by Robert G. Schwemm

    The Fair Housing Act is legitimately concerned with local-resident preferences, particularly those whose justifications are old or not well considered. Unless proponents of such policies show a greater willingness than New York has yet done to confront the real difficulties posed by these policies, they must expect that their efforts to discriminate in favor of local residents over outsiders will be seen as the kind of “artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barrier” to minorities’ housing rights that the FHA rightly condemns.

  • Local Preferences Require Local Analysis

    by Sam Tepperman-Gelfant

    When it comes to local preferences, local context makes all the difference.  While prioritizing a percentage of affordable homes in a neighborhood for local residents could advance fair housing and community stabilization goals in gentrifying neighborhoods, a similar policy would perpetuate segregation and inequality in areas that are already wealthy and predominantly white. Our fair housing laws are flexible enough to embrace this reality and permit local preferences in some places while prohibiting them in others.

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