Housing Segregation & My Journey to All Square

I recently authored an article in Metropolis Magazine entitled From Overt to Covert: How Contemporary Housing Discrimination Persists in America. The main premise of the article is this: Housing discrimination has not been eradicated. Its methods are simply more subtle, and sophisticated, than ever before.

I practiced as a housing attorney from 2012-2016, and was beyond shocked to see how insidious segregation remains today. Not in racially restrictive covenants, or white-only policies—but in land-use, zoning, and lending algorithms.

The most terrifying thing about the new modes of discrimination? They are incredibly sophisticated, and often neutrally worded—and therefore incredibly difficult to detect (and combat).

Though this reality may not seem readily correlated to All Square, it is. The same land-use policies and zoning ordinances that exclude on the basis of race can (and do) also exclude on the basis of having a criminal record. Lending algorithms are now specifically and cleverly designed to ensure that those with records cannot access mortgages, and/or lines of credit.

The intersection between housing, criminal records, and segregation is undeniably alarming.

Segregation is all too often treated as a relic of the past—but it exists, loud and clear, here: in the present. Addressing segregation and the intersection between housing and criminal records as contemporary problems will allow all us to look more critically at the “plain” language of zoning ordinances, tenant selection policies, and mortgage underwriting.

We must recognize the sophistication of systemic segregation and exclusion if we have any shot at alleviating it.

Emily Hunt Turner, Founder