A divided suburbia: Race, class, and the endless struggle for affordable housing

Last November, a 40-year fight over an affordable housing development in Long Island — a legal battle that had gone all the way to the Supreme Court — finally came to a vote.

Despite locals arguing for decades that it would cause traffic and crowd schools, Suffolk County legislators allocated $2.4 million to the 146-unit project in East Northport, a hamlet in the town of Huntington.

The same polarized debate is playing out in a host of suburbs surrounding New York City, including Westchester, northern New Jersey and Connecticut, as the shortage of affordable housing grows increasingly urgent.

The federal Fair Housing Act more than a half century ago made it illegal to refuse to sell or rent a home to anyone because of race, disability, religion, sex, family status or national origin.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, in an interview with The Real Deal late last year, defended his shift away from the Obama-era measures. “I expect criticisms,” he said. “People are creatures of habit. They don’t like change.”

What that change will look like, though, is hard to determine — the policy is still new. But Moses Gates, vice president for housing and neighborhood planning at the Regional Plan Association, said he believes slashing the Obama fair-housing rule will allow local governments to claim they are doing a good job on affordable housing without being held accountable by Washington.

Read more on The Real Deal.