Ending the segregation of housing: is access to housing sufficient?

Ending the segregation of housing: is access to housing sufficient?
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Shopping District in Southampton, New York. While housing is available in the city, retailers cater to affluent residents and visitors.

More than fifty years after the adoption of the Fair Housing Act, many Americans continue to live in neighborhoods that are segregated by race / ethnicity and class (Loh et al., 2020). How does this spatial separation come about and what is needed to meaningfully integrate neighborhoods? Is it enough to provide affordable housing, or do we need to think about other aspects of belonging to the community, such as general opportunities for rest, consumption or making friends? Such issues are of great importance to sociologists and are of great importance to those living in communities characterized by social class segregation, gentrification, and other living patterns that result in differences in service distribution, civic engagement, and quality of life.

Lisa Coppola, a housing worker and musician living in Southampton, New York, raises these questions. Recently profiled New York Times. Tenants series., Mr Coppola lives in Sandy Hollow Cove apartments, subsidized by Southampton residents who earn less than 80% of the region ‘s average income. While Ms. Coppola thinks she’s lucky enough to secure affordable housing in this expensive enclave, finding housing doesn’t mean she can enjoy everything the community has to offer. The district’s private beaches are subject to membership fees that do not exceed its budget, and goods are not available to it at local grocery stores and farm stalls. “I don’t pay $ 15 a quart of strawberries,” she said. “Don’t do that.” Social relationships have also been difficult to establish, and she misses her family in Queens and the former community in another part of Long Island (Gibson, 2022).

Challenges described Times the profile reveals the ways in which economic and class segregation operates in U.S. communities. Households of similar economic status often live in the neighborhood and even in entire cities. As we describe in detail in our article “Location and privilege: various prosperity in cities and neighborhoods“(Paulsen & Stuber, 2022) this is often created. Suburban development was partly designed to create homogeneous enclaves where white, wealthy households could avoid the overcrowding, diversity, and unpredictability of early cities. Restrictions on action and restrictive treaties have determined who can live in many of these areas, preventing racial, ethnic and religious minorities from entering elite enclaves and middle-class suburbs. Development practices and zoning codes further encouraged segregation: the size and price of building plots were set to exclude the poor and working-class population, and apartments and other types of affordable housing were explicitly banned for single-family homes. These types of practices are called exclusive zoning, is one of the forces that created and sustained economic and racial segregation in the United States. Many of these practices persist today.

Enclaves such as Southamptonwhere Mr Coppola lives, and Bedfordwhere geographers James and Nancy Duncan studied planning practice and exclusion, the average household income is almost twice as high as New York State, and does not reflect its racial and ethnic diversity: each has about 70% non – Hispanic whites and 52.5% in the state. In some of these areas, affluent residents have organized to limit the visibility of immigrants and people of color, such as restricting where day workers can come together to look for work, discouraging football games, or evicting overcrowded or substandard housing. often the only possible housing option (Dolgon, 2005; Duncan & Duncan, 2004).

The fact that low-paid workers have limited choice of housing is not surprising given the types of housing prevalent in these enclaves. In Southampton, for example, only 16.5% of occupied real estate is rented, and the average home purchase price exceeds $ 1.6 million. USD (US census, nd). Scarce rental housing is a common feature of affluent communities. As a result, workers who provide services that are important to these places – landscapers, childcare workers and housekeepers, as well as teachers, first responders and government workers – cannot find or buy housing close to their jobs. Some low-paid workers secure housing in remote but less expensive communities and then face long and often expensive journeys. Writing about Aspen, Colorado, Jenny Stuber (2021) describes a two-hour (round-trip) bus ride by Latino service and construction workers who are vital to the city’s economy but can’t afford to live there. That is spatial mismatchwhen workers live in one place but work elsewhere, it poses challenges not only for workers and jobseekers but also for employers.

Southampton, Long Island, is an enclave famous for such luxurious homes as this one. Affordable housing is difficult to find, and lower-income residents may not have access to important aspects of community life.

One solution to this problem is to include affordable and labor-intensive housing in or near elite enclaves. This is not an easy task: proposals to build affordable housing in affluent areas, whether subsidized units or apartment rentals, are constantly opposed by current residents who fear declining property values, rising crime or other deterioration in quality of life (Koebel et al. al., 2004; Manville & Monkkonen, 2021). Stereotypical ideas about people living in affordable housing can lead to population concern and resistance to construction (Tighe, 2012). Residents can support affordable housing in principle, but still do not want it to be around: a phenomenon called NIMBY or ‘not in my backyard’. Indeed, this was the response of a large number of Bedford (New York) residents to the Duncan and Duncan study who saw the need for affordable units but supported their construction only in marginal urban areas (Duncan & Duncan, 2004). Although research and media reports suggest that the introduction of affordable housing does not adversely affect communities (Eligon, 2020; Massey et al., 2013), organized population resistance may still delay, alter, or prevent their construction (Nguyen et al., 2013; Scally & Tighe, 2015).

Another way is to address the legacy of exclusive zoning through new initiatives that would allow the construction of buildings other than single-family homes. Some cities encourage construction auxiliary dwellings (ADU) – small, self-contained dwellings built on the same plot as a single-family house. ADUs can be available for rent, and the revenue they generate can benefit homeowners in expensive markets. Other methods are more comprehensive and ambitious. For example, in 2021. In California, legislation has been passed to increase the density of housing across the state, including small apartment buildings such as two-story homes in areas that previously had only single-family homes (Dougherty, 2021).

Successful implementation of affordable housing programs can ensure that lower paid workers can live close to their jobs. For their children, living in richer communities can significantly increase their opportunities for social mobility. Decades of Moving to Opportunity research show that when lower-income children under the age of 12 move to higher-income areas, they are more likely to complete high school, earn more, and get married more (Chetty, Hendren, and Katz). 2016). This was true even when their own parents had not substantially improved their income. This study provides clear support for inclusive zoning and mixed-income housing.

However, the Coppola case raises important questions about the extent to which people living in affordable housing are fully integrated into their communities and what it means to belong. Living in a community means not only a place to live, but also an opportunity to participate in the life of the community. Access to public spaces – parks, beaches, even street corners – is an important element of belonging. Privatization and regulation of public spaces can effectively eliminate low-income populations and can prove particularly hostile to people of color. Consumption is another important element of dependence. Residents join places to enjoy al fresco dining, gather with friends at a bar or cafe, and purchase basic necessities such as groceries, clothing, or hairstyles. If residents cannot afford these activities locally, the place of residence is no longer as useful to them in practice as it is socially. In these communities, we can also observe lower levels of attachment to the place, the “emotional or emotional connections between people and places” that result from people engaging in the routine of daily life (Paulsen, 2019).

Such observations continue to complicate sociological understanding of how social and economic inequality affects the community and sense of place. Instead of a simple story about class segregation in an extremely rich place like Southampton, we see that socio-economic integration and class segregation can coexist in the same community.


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