2015 News

Public forum aims to reshape housing policy in St. Louis metro

Despite the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, stark racial and economic segregation in housing continues. On Oct. 22, the Center for Social Development (CSD) and the Clark-Fox Policy Institute hosted “Inclusive Housing: A Public Forum for Policy Action in St. Louis” to discuss local, state and federal policies and how to build more inclusive metro areas. 

“Housing segregation is not simply the result of people’s preferences in terms of where they’d like to live. It’s actually the result of public policy decisions made over the course of decades,” Molly Metzger, assistant professor at the Brown School and CSD faculty director of Inclusive Housing, told the audience in the Clark-Fox Forum in Hillman Hall.

“These overtly racist policies were enforced until the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968,” she said. “But since then, the effects of these laws have been perpetuated by policies that on the surface might appear to be race-neutral but they actually have a disparate impact on communities of color.”

Speaker Richard Rothstein, research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, traced the history of policy actions that led to the current segregation of housing in the St. Louis region. He delivered a powerful speech via video based his 2014 report “The Making of Ferguson.” To watch his speech, click here, and Rothstein’s presentation begins at the 39-minute mark.

Metzger organized the forum with Henry S. “Hank” Webber, executive vice chancellor for administration at Washington University in St. Louis. Speakers also included St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay and the Rev. Starsky Wilson, president and CEO of the Deaconess Foundation and co-chair of the Ferguson Commission.

Panelists Lance Freeman, of Columbia University, Sarah Coffin, of Saint Louis University, and Todd Swanstrom, of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, discussed “Fixing Tax Breaks for Housing & Economic Development.” Watch the panel here, beginning at about the 1:55 time mark. View their presentations here: Freeman, Coffin, Swanstrom.

Wilson discussed the role of the Ferguson Commission in confronting housing segregation, including details on some of the Commission’s specific “calls to action.” The video of his presentation can be found here. It begins at the 3:15 time mark. To view Wilson’s PowerPoint, click here​.

The forum was the public portion of a symposium of leading experts who spent the morning of Oct. 22 and the next presenting and working together in Goldfarb Hall. The conference will lead to a book, setting the stage for a program of applied research and policy innovation.