HUD, Orlando Sort out Housing Inequality


ORLANDO, Florida – For most families, The American Dream is best defined by the ability to own a home.

However, as history and present show, it is a dream that remains unattainable for many.

What you need to know

  • President Biden ordered the HUD to review the guidelines and find ways to address any gaps in discrimination
  • One of the topics was redlining, in which the communities were marked in color to offer fewer opportunities
  • Orlando, Orange County is trying to address the issues with more affordable housing that helps people move into home ownership

“During the 20th century, federal, state, and local governments have systematically implemented racially discriminatory housing policies that contributed to segregated neighborhoods and prevented equal opportunities and the opportunity to build prosperity for Black, Latin American, Asian-American, and Pacific islanders, Native American families, and others underserved communities, ”the White House wrote in a January 2021 presidential memorandum.

Within weeks of taking office, President Joe Biden ordered the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to review the agency’s policies from top to bottom and develop a means to fill the gaps in discrimination.

“The enduring legacy of residential segregation and discrimination is still ubiquitous in our society,” the president said in a statement.

The following issues were listed in the memo:

  • A racial divide in home ownership
  • Persistent undervaluation of properties owned by color families
  • A disproportionate burden of pollution and exposure to the effects of climate change in color communities
  • Systemic barriers to safe, accessible and affordable housing for people of color, immigrants, people with disabilities, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender-assault and queer people

Central Florida is not immune to the differences in government policies past and present.

“There is an immediate need and support for those who have been systematically underserved over time, but also a need for white people to realize that they were at an advantage, and the fact that a color community does not do well affects them out on them in ways they may not even be aware of, ”said Hank Van Putten of the Peace and Justice Institute at Valencia College.

President Lydon B. Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act in 1968 with the intention of paving the way for people of all races to have equal housing opportunities.

The most productive policy affecting homeowner equality has been “redlining”.

As a “New Deal” era policy, mortgage lenders have color coded communities green, blue, yellow, or red.

Neighborhoods within the red lines often received the fewest opportunities for growth and home ownership. The majority of the parishes within the red lines were also black neighborhoods.

“With redlining, there have been problems getting credit, not just for residential use, but we need to study how redlining is affecting insurance and education in our community,” said Rich Black, editor of ONYX Magazine.

Black, whose parents immigrated from Nassau, Bahamas and owned one of the first restaurants in Orlando, says there are still zip code differences.

“I think whenever you remove obstacles from dreams, the American dream, I think that’s doing it right,” said Black. “If they could balance scales, economic scales, and educational scales, that would be right for everyone.”

The city of Orlando and Orange County have jointly invested millions of dollars in affordable housing and other programs over the past few years to fill the housing gaps.

“A lot of my friends lived in apartment buildings there, but when (State Road) 408 came through nearly 16,000 residents were displaced and they were homeowners,” said Regina Hill, Orlando city commissioner.

Hill’s family moved to Parramore in 1976 at the age of 9.

She saw firsthand the impact of the rapid development of freeway and highway systems that were displacing many black neighborhoods.

“We’re coming back and making sure we responsibly revitalize this community and bring back some of the rich history that has been lost here in Parramore and bring people back along with economic development,” said Commissioner Hill.

One of the city’s most recent projects is Parramore Oaks, an apartment complex where rent is tailored to a family’s income. The city is also expanding with the construction of a project that will ultimately include 52 houses to help locals begin the home ownership process.

Hank Van Putten of the Peace and Justice Institute at Valencia College says expanding home access will fill the wealth gap.

“Wealth has been passed on from the next generation, and if you don’t have to pass anything because you’ve only rented and renting doesn’t generate any equity, there’s a wealth gap,” said Van Putten. “For me, justice means that everyone gets what they need to be successful, and equality means that everyone gets the same.”

The review ordered by President Biden is designed to ensure both justice and equality.

The measure includes the protection of housing for the LGBTQ communities.

Orange County has had housing protection based on sexual orientation since 1986. The city of Orlando issued similar protection in 2002.


Janet Smith