Terner Center Blog: No Limits

Richard Rothstein Lecture on The Color of Law at the Terner Center

Posted on by Terner Center

On Thursday, September 28, the Terner Center, in partnership with the UC Berkeley Department of City and Regional Planning, hosted Richard Rothstein, author of The Color Of Law: A Forgotten History Of How Our Government Segregated America. Rothstein spoke to a standing-room only crowd in Wurster Hall about the legacy of the many government policies that fueled segregation in American cities for decades, and discussed the implications of his research with Terner Center Faculty Director Carol Galante.Richard Rothstein

We invited Rothstein to provoke our collective thinking about important, challenging, and uncomfortable issues in housing policy. We believe it is critical to have these types of conversations, and advance understanding around them, if policymakers, practitioners, and researchers are to identify, develop, and implement effective solutions.

Rothstein observed that, while segregation in buses, restaurants, and schools has been addressed through legislation and litigation, neighborhood-level segregation has not. Instead, it has been allowed to persist and is accepted as an intractable problem in a way these other instances were not. He argues this is due in part to a widely-held, but false belief that neighborhood segregation is a “de facto” phenomenon (the result of a collection of individual racist decisions and self-selection into homogeneous communities) rather than “de jure” (the result of deliberate and systematic government efforts and policies at the local, state, and federal level) that have segregated metropolitan areas.

To illustrate the “de jure” nature of government-sanctioned segregation, he cited examples like the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The FHA initially subsidized the construction of housing and suburban development for the white population while supporting policies such as redlining, which instructed banks and others to limit or deny loans to African Americans in many communities.

Rothstein noted that, while the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968 to curb future discrimination, it did not undo the damage or legacy of earlier policies and ultimately left the inequitable structural conditions of the early- to mid-20th century in place. Today, a lack of access to homeownership for African American families has resulted in a staggeringly large wealth gap between white and African American families and many schools have resegregated, reflecting the segregated neighborhoods from which they draw their student body.

Richard Rothstein and Carol GalanteFollowing his remarks, Carol Galante engaged Rothstein in a dialogue about solutions to address this wealth gap and persistent (and in some cases, increasing) segregation in American cities. Rothstein framed his book as specifically intended to present the history of segregation so that readers might better understand its influence on current conditions. Though this history is not a secret, it has been forgotten, he argues. In Rothstein’s estimation, only once the public has a better understanding of this history can there be a real conversation about how to remedy it. He noted some encouraging signs that the conversation on race and racial segregation is evolving, citing New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s May 2017 speech on confederate statues as an important example.

In his question and answer period with the audience, Rothstein also discussed a few possible policy solutions and fixes to address residential segregation, but noted that he looked to us - the Terner Center, students, academics, civic and community leaders - to learn from the history in his book and lead the way towards much needed change.

The Department of City and Regional Planning will be hosting other relevant and engaging speakers as part of their annual lecture series. Learn more about upcoming events on their webpage. Video footage of this event is available here on the Department webpage.


From Small Steps to Giant Leaps: What Must Come Next for the California Housing Agenda?

On Friday, September 15th, the California Legislature approved a package of 17 bills aimed at putting a dent in the state’s housing crisis. While the votes came down to the wire, in the end, the need for solutions won the day, and in the coming weeks the Governor is expected to sign each piece of legislation, officially ushering in the most significant housing policy changes in recent memory. You can read our recap of these bills in an earlier blog post here. Drafting, amending, defending and eventually passing these bills was no small feat, and the legislature, the Governor and…


California Steps Forward for Housing

Posted on by David Garcia and Carol Galante

On Friday, September 15th, the California legislative session ended with the passage of 17 individual pieces of legislation aimed at alleviating the state’s ongoing housing crisis. While three particular bills have received the most attention—SB2, SB3, and SB35—several other bills headed for the Governor’s desk are also likely to have an important impact on the landscape of the state’s housing policy. We have compiled a brief overview of each bill that passed, organized into policy categories. While the passage of these newly approved policies is certainly a milestone, we also know there is much more work ahead. Stay tuned for…


Legislation for Information: Sacramento’s Role in Filling Housing Data Gaps

Posted on by Carolina Reid and Echo Bergquist

As California’s lawmakers return to Sacramento next week, it is worth paying attention to current legislative efforts to improve access to data that can inform our understanding of the state’s housing crisis. While the final package of housing legislation is still to be determined, some of the original bills -- including SB 35, AB 1397, and AB 879—have the potential to improve housing data quality throughout California.   Why focus on data?  Despite the severity of California’s housing crisis, and the importance of the housing sector to the overall health of the state’s economy, we lack basic data on many…


Modular Construction in the Bay Area: The Future is Now

This post originally appeared on the ULI San Francisco Blog on August 2, 2017. After years of abstract discussions and false starts, modular building may finally be gaining the momentum it needs to make an impact in the Bay Area. Why now? And why here? On Tuesday, July 18, the San Francisco District Council of the Urban Land Institute hosted “Modular Construction in the Bay Area: The Future is Now”, an event moderated by Terner Center for Housing Innovation Faculty Director Carol Galante. The panel discussion featured four leaders committed to bringing this innovative housing method to scale in the Bay Area: Developers Rick Holliday of Holliday…


Too Big to Hide: The Importance of Public Data on the Mortgage Market

Posted on by Carolina Reid and Echo Bergquist

Fair lending is the foundation of a thriving economy, both locally and nationally. Access to credit drives home purchases, revitalizes neighborhoods, and allows families to build wealth for future generations. Since the financial crisis, however, tighter credit standards have made it increasingly difficult to obtain a mortgage, especially for low-income and minority borrowers.  A key challenge facing policymakers is how to reform the housing finance system in a way that provides access to credit for a broad range of households, yet at the same time ensures that homeownership is sustainable over the long-term.  Striking this balance is critical, not only…


Jumpstarting the Market for Accessory Dwelling Units

This post originally appeared on the Berkeley Blog on May 23, 2017. It shares insights from our recently released report Jumpstaring the Market for Accessory Dwelling Units: Lessons Learned from Portland, Seattle and Vancouver.   ADU permitting explodes: Permits as a share of all residential permits. How did Portland, Oregon go from permitting two accessory dwelling units (ADUs) per month in 2009 to almost two per day in 2016?  Now, more than one of every ten housing units built in Portland is an ADU. Compared to other housing types, ADUs, or separate small dwellings embedded within single family properties, are…


Highlights from the Terner Center Promoting Affordability Conference

Though U.S. cities like Boston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles are important engines of the American economy, their rapid growth in jobs and populations has not been met with a comparable pace of growth in housing. The result? Increasing pressure on both the rental and for-sale housing markets, and skyrocketing costs of living for a larger and larger proportion of the people who live in these cities.  On Thursday June 1, the Terner Center hosted a special convening intended to delve into this issue, exploring solutions to that could help expand the supply of housing, lower the cost…


Rowing in the Same Direction? Aligning Sustainability and Housing Policies, Strategies and Goals

Posted on by Sara Draper Zivetz

Access to quality housing in stable neighborhoods is increasingly recognized as a fundamental building block for individual and family outcomes. Where you live, how much you spend on your housing, and how stable a place it is for you and your family has well-documented effects on economic prosperity, educational attainment, and health and well being, among others. Meanwhile, the location, design and affordability of housing is also deeply tied to issues of environmental justice and climate change. As related but distinct segments of the environmental field, housing and housing policy play an important though often under-discussed role in both issues:…


Balancing the tax code to relieve housing cost burdens

Posted on by Terner Center Team

Of the more than 21 millions renters in the United States who are burdened by the cost of housing today, more than 15 million can not access assistance they are eligible for, because there aren’t enough federal resources to meet their needs. In part, this is a result of skewed tax code that directs significant expenditures to homeowners and other policy priorities, and leaves the housing security and economic mobility of renter families behind.  Amidst emerging conversations about reforming the federal tax code, it is important that we are reminded of this imbalance and seize the opportunity, should there be…