COMMUNITY VOICES | What Professor Goetz got wrong about our report on subsidized housing and segregation

Professor Goetz’s comments reflect an obvious misunderstanding of our report and of the issues of urban racial segregation and fair housing. Yet we understand why he is upset. Our report challenges many of the activities at which he has invested much of his professional career and that he cares about deeply. We regret that he has expressed his anger by attacking the scholarly reputations of his colleagues rather that by taking the time to outline real and substantive concerns with the work itself.

This Community Voices article is a response to COMMUNITY VOICES | Report on subsidized housing, segregation got it wrong, by Edward Goetz

We regret the serious misunderstanding that is at the basis of Prof. Goetz’s claims but we take seriously the critique of a colleague who obviously cares about housing issues deeply and take this opportunity to respond to a series of errors in his statement and to explain more fully the rich body of legal and empirical research to which our study is related.

In overview, Professor Goetz asserts IMO’s report was inaccurate and unscholarly in the following ways:

1. Goetz asserts the Metropolitan Council’s housing policy was never aimed at economic and racial integration.

Response: Goetz’s own work states that the Met Council housing policies were aimed at economic and racial integration. The history of the council bears out that Goetz was right the first time – as is IMO now.

2. Goetz assert that racial integration is not an important goal or requirement of the Federal Fair Housing Act.

Response: Integration goals and requirements are a central aspect of the Fair Housing Act. Goetz can provide no support for his incorrect assertion.

3. Goetz assert that building affordable housing in the suburbs will not relieve central city segregation because all the housing will go to poor white suburbanites who are paying too much for suburban housing.

Response: Goetz claim is based on a single 14 year old study of the New Jersey affordable housing law. Other laws, like Montgomery County Maryland’s, where blacks occupy 80 percent of the suburban rental units and the Twin Cities, where non-whites occupy 50 percent of rental units, show different outcomes. Further, recent New Jersey research shows that it’s affordable housing today is occupied by a far more racially diverse population that it was 14 years ago.

4. Goetz asserts our evaluation of the Franklin-Gateway projects was flawed because our time period for evaluation was too short and we made improper comparisons to the city of Minneapolis as a whole and the region.

Response: Franklin Gateway was the only project affordable that housing advocates agreed had revitalized an urban neighborhood. We would have liked to study a project with a longer timeline and asked for one, but advocates pointed to no other project to evaluate. Orfield asked Professor Goetz by email if there was any another project we should evaluate instead. He did not provide one. IMO used recent census data, which was more reliable than Goetz’s suggested method of interviewing neighborhoods residents and businesses in a very small area around the development. Our comparison to trends in the city and region as a whole was a reasonable academic strategy. Subsequent to Goetz’s response, IMO compared the Franklin-Gateway neighborhood to other neighborhoods with similar demographics and location. This this comparison confirmed our earlier findings.

5. Goetz attacks IMO methodology for determining opportunity as one-dimensional compared to the Met Council’s more sophisticated methodology.

Response: IMO staff participated extensively in the design and implementation of the Met Council’s opportunity analysis for the Fair Housing Equity Assessment (“FHEA”), which he presents as a paradigm. IMO staff helped with data collection and actually performed the cluster analysis that was used to define opportunity categories in that analysis.

6. Goetz asserts that by describing low income housing developers as an “interest group,” and that urban housing development is complex that IMO is insinuating unethical behavior on their part.

Response: While low income housing developers are “an interest group,” and urban housing development is complicated, IMO has not called these developers unethical nor does it assert that it is unethical to be part of an interest group that masters a complex process to the financial benefit of their organizations.

As a final note, despite his many vociferous objections, it is startling how many of the fundamental conclusions of the IMO report Goetz seems to agree with. He admits that 1) affordable housing development places a low-priority on cost-effectiveness; 2) that affordable housing development is an incredibly complex process, dominated by CDCs with geographic affiliations; 3) that there is a significant waiting list for affordable housing developments in the suburbs and the cities alike: that funding is scarce, making policy priorities important: and 5) that current funding priorities are spread across many different policy objectives, including some that place housing in high-income communities and others that place housing in low-income communities. These are the conclusions that form the basis of IMO’s recommendation, that funding redirected to the suburbs would be more cost-effective and improve concentrations of poverty and segregation in the Twin Cities.

  • As the former neighborhood chairman of Ventura Village and a person deeply involved in community housing and development, I would love to have both Professor Orfield and Goetz actually come down into the neighborhood we live in and discuss with community members and activists the issues outlined in both of their pieces. Those of us actually involved in developing the projects and implementing the changes in neighborhoods where we live are the wise elders—able to observe and comment on the impacts that these developments have had. These housing pieces are little more than academic "sword-fighting" over issues hardly related to the livability issues we have successfully addressed over the past two decades. Professor Orfield's own brother owns properties just a block from the Franklin-Gateway project. He has had a window seat into the changes on Franklin, especially as they related to the section of Park Avenue, from East Franklin to 18th Street, which was one of the worst areas in the Twin Cities for drug-dealing and prostitution. And he could tell you how Peavey Park was transformed from the worst crime rate in any park in Minnesota to a relatively safe venue. Step out or your ivory towers and take a tour with long term residents and stakeholders. Then write your papers and rattle your sabers! - by Robert Albee on Wed, 02/26/2014 - 11:13am

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Myron Orfield's picture
Myron Orfield

Professor Myron Orfield is the Director of the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., and an affiliate faculty member at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.