Contra Costa Hopeful For A Future With Fair Housing And Integrated Cities

Vince Martellacci

Concord looks diverse, but it is not well-integrated, with a black population that makes up less than 3% of the demographics in town and a Latinx population that is confined to one lower-income neighborhood.

But Concord and Contra Costa County are about to start integrating.
Downtown Concord, Todos Santos PlazaPhoto byCity of Concord/Visit Concord

In 2015, The Obama administration put forth a mandate that cities should provide a “robust analysis” on barriers to housing accessibility. In 2019, with little to no prior enforcement, the Trump administration eliminated the rule.

Biden’s administration is now taking up the housing mantle that Obama launched near the end of Biden’s vice presidency. His Department of Housing and Urban Development rule would ensure municipalities submit equity reports for housing accessibility and act on the results. It would also ensure more enforcement of The Fair Housing Act of 1968.

The rule seeks to bolster considerations of racial, gender, and other identity-based equity, though it may focus first on racial minorities. Many are hopeful the rule will create fairness in access to housing for disabled people as well, and in California, sexual orientation and gender identity are also protected classes in the housing landscape.

The rule would make concrete changes on several fronts, including financial considerations around where an individual can afford to live and fighting discrimination and abuse from landlords.

The rule, titled, “Affirmatively Further Fair Housing” (AFFH), “aligns with the 2015 requirement to provide robust analysis on impediments to fair housing for jurisdictions to complete prior to their Consolidated Plan,” according to Sophia Huckabay, a housing program analyst for the city of Concord.

Huckabay shares that, even after Trump scrapped the rule, Concord went ahead and submitted a 2020 report that analyzed obstacles likely to be faced by lower income individuals in obtaining housing between 2020-2025. Huckabay shares that they did this following the AFFH’s template, “demonstrating our ongoing commitment to the principles of fair housing.”

HUD has an “Equity Plan” proposal on the table, which expands on Obama’s mandate. Says Huckabay, “To maximize regional impact, the City of Concord has historically collaborated with neighboring jurisdictions to prepare and submit the Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing.” Concord is following news on the new rule closely and Huckabay says Concord’s housing department, “will align our practices accordingly.”

Concord collaborates with nearby towns to take a look at regional equity, with or without the AFFH. Concord is working with its neighbors to ensure cities in the entire immediate region all make gains for marginalized groups together. No city in the Diablo area will be left behind.

In the 2020 report, Concord included Walnut Creek, Antioch, Pittsburg, and corporated and unincorporated Contra Costa County. The Housing Authorities of Richmond, Pittsburg, and Contra Costa County were also involved.

As cities that received federal funding for housing accessibility, the report says, “[the cities] are required to take steps to ‘affirmatively further fair housing’: that is, to take proactive steps to expand choice, address segregation and exclusion, and enable fair access to opportunity.”

Concord was pinpointed in the report as having neighborhoods separated by income disparity, from working class to the affluent and everything in between. The report noted that, of all of Concord’s collaborating cities, Antioch and Pittsburg had turned most sharply toward socioeconomic and racial diversity.

In Concord, race is a big part of who lives where: “In the predominantly [Latinx] and low-income ‘Monument Corridor,’ initial displacement risk factors are apparent.” The potential for these lower-income families to be pushed out of Concord due to affordability problems is high, and disproportionately affects Latinx, Latino, and Latina-Americans and immigrants.

The report grouped Concord with Oakland and San Francisco, noting that “larger cities” have more racial diversity, but, “more variety between neighborhoods,” as well. This variety means people of different racial and marginal backgrounds share slightly more integrated neighborhoods, though all three have a long way to go.

However, once again the report enforces that Latinx Americans are, “relatively concentrated in the Monument Corridor.” While Concord may be more diverse than some, the Latinx population is pigeonholed into one lower-income neighborhood. The AFFH would ensure lower-income families and families of color have access to affordable housing throughout the entire city.

The report cited HUD statistics, which showed that in Concord, “[Latinx] and Black residents face particularly severe housing problems.” Richmond, North Richmond, San Pablo, Hercules, Martinez, Pittsburg, Antioch, Oakley, and Concord were pinpointed as the cities with the greatest levels of “housing burdens.”

Antioch and Pittsburg were seen as leaders in housing access in Contra Costa County. Black and Latinx immigrants in the two cities had higher home ownership rates than in the rest of the county. But the report shares, “HUD data also shows significant disparities in the rates of renter and owner-occupied housing by race/ethnicity in Contra Costa County.”

Several contributing factors to inequality in fair housing access were enumerated. These included, “displacement of residents due to economic pressures, rising housing costs, source of income discrimination,” and several other factors that you may not think of right away, including displacement due to domestic violence.

Finally, the report found that access to housing was highest for “non-[Latinx] whites” and lowest for Black and Latinx individuals and families.

Attend a public meeting with the City of Concord on February 27th at 6pm. They are looking for your input.

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I've covered stories of unknown immigrants from places like Cambodia, been an opinion editor and opinion blog writer, managed blogs for my own businesses & for other brands. I'm looking forward to getting back to more classical journalism.

Walnut Creek, CA

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