A Call to Tear Down Long Island’s “Invisible Walls”
MINEOLA, N.Y.- Activists for civil rights and fair housing gathered at Nassau County's legislative building on Thursday to call for an end to policies they say promote segregation.
Fifty years after passage of the Fair Housing Act, Long Island remains one of the most segregated areas in the country, according to a new report. As an example of a public policy that maintains the status quo, Lucas Sanchez, Long Island director of New York Communities for Change, pointed to the illegal discrimination faced by people who receive Section 8 housing vouchers.
"And the County Human Rights Commission, which is tasked with enforcing those laws and being a resource to victims of source of income discrimination, it really doesn't serve that purpose," he said.
The report, called "Invisible Walls," cited other policies - including zoning laws that limit the development of multifamily housing and the use of housing subsidies to fund projects that perpetuate segregation.
Sanchez said the county receives more than $16 million a year in federal subsidies that could be put to more practical use.
"For example, Community Development Block Grants that are distributed to the municipalities that apply for them," he said, "and instead of being used for housing, those funds are used for other projects, for beautification projects."
He noted that more than 1,700 units of affordable housing in the county will lose affordability protections by 2020, but there are only plans to build 115 new units in that time period.
Sanchez said the report called on county leaders to take action to end segregation, beginning with the tools they already have.
"Enforcing protections that are already on the books," he said, "and ensuring that federal monies that are giving to municipalities actually serve the purpose of affirmatively furthering fair housing."
The full report is online at InvisibleWallsLI.org.