Suburbia’s ugly legacy

Posted on June 8, 2022 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Local residents often object to nearby high density housing development because it will change the “character” of their community. Yet we don’t appreciate how we came to live in homogeneous upper-middle class neighborhoods.

I feel lucky that are able to own a home in beautiful Sonoma because our parents were able to help us with our down payment. Thus we benefitted from the generational wealth of our families. We need to realize the reasons that people of color have not been as able to accumulate wealth through home ownership. This is because of generations of public policies that discriminated against non-whites.

Through official government actions African Americans were explicitly excluded from benefitting from the Homestead Act, New Deal benefits, and the GI Bill. Suburban housing developments often included racial covenants that prohibited sale of homes to people of color.

So, the character of the white upper-middle class neighborhoods many of us enjoy is the direct result of government-sanctioned discrimination. We have a moral obligation to accept changes to the character of our neighborhoods through the inclusion of lower income housing and higher density as the price to be paid for ending America’s shameful history of racist housing segregation policies.

— Matt Metzler, Sonoma

3 thoughts on “Suburbia’s ugly legacy

  1. good one Matt; these density fights reflect a major blind spot for those who find every reason but race to justify low density segregation. good articles lately in the NYT: Twilight of the NIMBY by Conor Dougherty, where test case Susan Kirsch has the exact same taking points as local NIMBYs and the NIMBY think tank Embaradero Institute, and in the Atlantic: People Who Hate People, illustrating how unexamined Green true beliefs about population and growth keep up segregation

  2. Thank you Matt. Instead of throwing the term, NIMBY around you stated the real issue. There is no reason dense, multi family, low income housing can not be “green”. Any development can be designed to be state of the art “green”. There is no reason that real low income housing can not be build in the city of Sonoma or the valley. Some of those throwing the term NIMBY around, think building anything a developer proposes, large homes for the wealthy, suburban sprawl at SDC, projects with a couple of token/ so called affordable units, is going to some how miraculously end segregation and inequality. When I was young and living in LA, I was able to buy a small condo. The developer had created the project under the old redevelopment laws in place then. Buyers could come in with little down and our mortgages were a “buy down” from the developer. Our mortgage rate was reduced by 4 percentage points and increased each year for 4 years by one point, before the permanent rate was reached. This is not to be confused with an adjustable rate mortgage, this was a fixed rate, with the developer making up the difference for 4 years. The development I lived in gave me a chance to build equity at a price I could afford. And guess what else happened? Yes, ethnic diversity.

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