The Issue of Affordable Housing in the US

Table of Contents

In the modern world, the issues of segregation and inequity remain acute, even though much effort has been put into fighting them. The conflict of interests exists in many fields, and the use of land is one of them. In the US, zoning laws were implemented at the beginning of the 20th century and have been used ever since. It is a practice enacted on the local, not nationwide level, which determines how land should be used and regulates housing. Poverty, along with race and class separation, is a problem associated with inadequate zoning. In particular, some suburbanites are worried about their safety and image when there is an influx of low-income families in their town. The purpose of this paper is to discuss social concerns that arise around housing affordability and determine whether suburbs should rewrite their zoning laws, allowing a fair share of affordable housing.

How Neighborhoods Shape People’s Outcomes

The neighborhood where one lives impacts their life on many levels. According to Parker (2016), four neighborhood factors define personal outcomes: “social cohesion, social control, spatial mismatch, and environmental hazards” (para. 8). All these aspects are interrelated and equally crucial for overall well-being. For example, when there is a significant spatial mismatch, people can experience high unemployment rates and spend an extended period jobless. Neighborhoods divide their residents by economic stability, job opportunities, and quality of education and health care. Prosperous life does not come easily for people in low-income districts. In poverty-stricken areas, safety is often compromised, and violence rates are high since bad influences are generally stronger than good ones. In turn, living in the constant fear of danger causes stress and can affect parenting and children’s life (Parker, 2016). A person’s background and starting opportunities can remarkably define their future. The social, physical, and mental well-being of a person depends on the circumstances in which they have been raised.

Everyone wants a better life for themselves and their children, but some people’s opportunities are restricted due to social status or lower income. As Badger & Bui (2018) claim, according to recent research, a child’s residence impacts whether they can prosper at an adult age. Education is crucial in accessing a high-paying job, and when there is a choice between two candidates, a person from an affluent school has better chances than that from a regular public school. This example of inequity is just one of many, which should be eliminated in the modern world by providing people with equal opportunities. I believe that a neighborhood does not define a person, but shapes their character, mindset, and values. I am the way I am due to the circumstances in which I have grown and live now. I live in Miami Gardens, Florida, and my life is balanced in general. Overall, the economic and social situation in a neighborhood and the quality of residents’ lives are interconnected.

The Neighborhood’s Influence on Personality Traits and Behavior

The neighborhood impacts not only the economic and social life of the residents but also defines their personality traits. I believe I could be very different should I have grown up elsewhere. In Miami Gardens, most people are friendly and ready to help, so I have inherited these traits as well. The surroundings are crucial in forming a person’s character since people learn from society and follow the patterns that they have witnessed. That is why housing, school, and racial segregation is especially harmful since it widens the social gap. According to Badger & Bui (2018), children of different colors tend not to have similar opportunities even when they have grown within the same neighborhood. This disparity not only results in housing patterns but also causes mental health problems and a lack of tolerance in people. Ethnic diversity is crucial to teach children empathy and broad-mindedness. If a person grew up in a neighborhood radically different from where they live, they would be different in terms of financial situation, opportunities, mindset, and character.

Another issue associated with segregation, in particular, housing inequality, is the public reaction. For example, if low-income families move to the suburbs seeking a better life for their children, locals anticipate crime and a worsened image of the town that will decrease their homes’ value. When low-income families are black or Latino, racial prejudice can add to social inequality (Parker, 2016). Therefore, government-subsidized housing is often seen by locals as a negative measure. Individuals with hostile behavior toward a particular group of people can become role models for children and adolescents, aggravating the issue of racial and class exclusion and extending it in time. The government regulations are crucial in defining the public attitude. As Rigsby (2016) reports, exclusionary zoning has been usually applied to suburban areas and aimed to keep low-income families out of suburbs. Such a practice strengthens affluent neighborhoods and traps low-income households in deprivation. The adverse reaction to the government’s zoning laws that provide the poor with affordable housing is a significant reason for the social gap exacerbation.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Affordable Housing

When addressing the issue of affordable housing for low-income families, it is necessary to understand the positive outcomes of zoning laws. When applied effectively, zoning can prevent overcrowding in some areas and ensure the effective use of land. Buildings are not piled up, and incompatible institutions are not located close to each other. Besides, due to a systematic arrangement, zoning allows for an organized space and beautiful view with parks and green areas. Another important function is protecting residential districts from commercial development. At the same time, access to quality schools, hospitals, and jobs is still provided. According to Rigsby (2016), one of the primary goals of zoning policies is to maintain property value and tax rates. Such regulations as limiting the building’s height and capacity increase the land’s value. Zoning laws protect the interests of the existing neighborhoods and control the effective use of land.

In reality, a number of issues associated with poor housing and zoning laws arise. As Bertolet (2016) claims, the major problem is social separation, as high rent and tax rates preserve certain neighborhoods for the wealthy. Regulations of land use limit houses supply and raise housing costs, harming low-income households. Besides, exclusionary zoning segregates neighborhoods by class and contributes to homelessness rates (Bertolet, 2016). Mobility is often restricted if people cannot afford a car. High-quality schools remain out of reach of the poor, trapping them into the vicious circle of poverty. High crime rates and little support from the government make low-income neighborhoods unsafe for their residents. As Rigsby claims (2016), the scale of “urban exclusionary zoning pale in comparison to the massive movement to the suburbs since the ’70s” (What Does Exclusionary section, para. 2). However, the current exclusionary zoning still perpetuates inequalities on various levels, such as income, opportunities, and safety.

The Need for the Development of Fair Share Policy

In Florida, the need for affordable housing has been determined at the end of the last century as a means of improving economic opportunity. According to Connerly and Smith (2018), the state’s metropolitan areas suffer from the above-mentioned issues of racial and class segregation. At the same time, little has been done to improve the situation, despite the advanced housing legislation in Florida. The Oregon approach of setting the minimum density standards can be employed in other states to improve housing affordability (Connerly & Smith, 2018). Overall, the only efficient way to manage the situation is by directing local jurisdictions to plan for the fair share.

All things considered, suburbs should be mandated to amend their zoning laws, allowing for a fair share of affordable housing. Even though the Fair Share Act prohibits discrimination of any sort, certain tactics are used to get around the rule: for instance, requirements for a minimum lot size (Rigsby, 2016). It is evident that the adverse effects of unequal opportunities hinder economic growth and prevent social equity. The practice used to maintain high housing values and taxes only benefits the property owners. Meanwhile, an efficient distribution of resources could help enhance the economic situation in the neighborhood. Affordable housing would increase purchasing power, resulting in job creation and new tax revenues. People whose needs in housing, education, and jobs are satisfied rarely show criminal attitudes. According to Rigsby (2016), research even indicates increased property values in areas with diversity in land use. Therefore, a fair share principle in the suburbs would improve the quality of life for many people.

To sum up, the social concern about the government’s zoning laws and affordable housing is discussed in this paper. The impact of the economic and social situation in neighborhoods on people’s outcomes is analyzed along with the connection between the individual’s residence and personality traits. Research shows that exclusionary zoning is the primary reason for the widening social and economic gap. Besides, the advantages and disadvantages of providing affordable housing for low-income families are discussed to determine whether zoning laws should be changed. It can be concluded that fair share policy needs to be developed to eliminate the barrier to equal opportunities and economic growth.

References

Badger, E. & Bui, Q. (2018). . The New York Times.

Bertolet, D. (2016). Exclusionary zoning robs our cities of their best qualities. Sightline Institute. Web.

Connerly, C. E. & Smith, M. (2018). Developing a fair share housing policy for Florida. Florida State University Journal of Land Use and Environmental Law, 12(1), Article 3. Web.

Parker, P. (2016). . State of Opportunity.

Rigsby, E. A. (2016). Understanding exclusionary zoning and its impact on concentrated poverty. The Century Foundation. Web.

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