Government-owned foreclosed homes: a fair housing opportunity? PRRAC joined the NAACP, the National Urban League, and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights in asking the Treasury Department and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to open up foreclosed properties in "high opportunity" areas for use as low income rental housing. The FHFA, which is the government conservator for the failed mortgage entities "Fannie Mae" and "Freddie Mac" holds large numbers of these "Real Estate Owned" (REO) properties. We see these REO properties as an important untapped resource to give low income families access to greater employment opportunities and higher performing schools. See our comments and maps describing the potential of this new initiative.
Valuable Civil Rights Education Data Released: This week, the Department of Education released the second set of data from the 2009-10 Office of Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). The newly released data represents a "treasure trove" for advocates across the country as it includes information from the school, district, and state levels. Perhaps the mostly anticipated data set is one providing a more accurate view of school climate and discipline, including new items on referrals to law enforcement and arrests (cross-tabulated by race, gender, disability, and other categories). The survey also provides information on enrollment, per-pupil expenditures, teacher qualifications, access to college-prep and AP courses, and whether the district is under a desegregation order. You can access the CRDC here.
Another HUD program moves toward housing mobility and choice: A new HUD notice for the controversial Moving to Work (MTW) program (which currently permits 33 Public Housing Agencies around the country to seek waivers of a wide range of program and budget rules) invites 4 new PHAs to join the program, explicitly requesting proposals that support regional housing mobility and that affirmatively promote housing integration. We have previously criticized the MTW program for its unlawful waiver of key civil rights rules, and its failure to advance the statutory goal of the program to "increase housing choices for eligible low income families." This new notice appears to fix these problems, at least for the four new PHAs entering the program. Earlier this year, PRRAC and other housing and civil rights groups submitted a letter opposing expansion of the MTW program in the current housing bill before Congress. We are hopeful that this recent HUD notice represents a positive new direction for the MTW program.
Other news and resources
The "State of Black America": The National Urban League released its annual State of Black America report last night. "Occupy the Vote: Educate, Employ, Empower" stresses the importance of increased civic engagement by people of color to achieve educational and employment success. The report includes the annual "Equality Index," which measures African American attainment in relation to white Americans across a range of socioeconomic indicators. The index "has its roots in the 'Three-Fifths compromise' of the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, in which three-fifths of the population of slaves would be counted for enumeration purposes. Two centuries later, the State of Black America asks how far have African-Americans progressed from being considered 'three-fifths' of a person. For the third year, a Hispanic Equality Index has been added to the report."
New research on school integration: Yesterday, the Century Foundation released The Future of School Integration: Socioeconomic Diversity as an Education Reform Strategy, edited by Senior Fellow Richard D. Kahlenberg. The volume presents new research on the benefits of school diversity for children in pre-school programs, the feasibility of wider use of interdistrict transfers to promote integration, and an innovative analysis of the long term costs and benefits of school integration. Click here to read the introduction and Marco Basile's chapter on the costs and benefits of school integration.
Registration is open for the National Conference on School Diversity, on May 17, at Georgetown University Law Center. Register today at www.school-diversity.org