By: NANCY CAMBRIA
Communications Manager, For the Sake of All

How do we begin to dismantle more than a century of damaging laws, policies, and practices that have created a “geography of inequity” in St. Louis so pervasive that our region currently ranks among the ten most segregated areas in the country?

For the Sake of All in partnership with ArchCity Defenders, Ascend STL Inc., Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis, Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council (EHOC), Empower Missouri, and Team TIF is pleased to announce the release of a collaborative report, Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide.

The 115-page report details an extensive history of segregation and includes research on how we live now because of racial and low-income housing divides. The report concludes with 11 policy recommendations intended to drive community action towards equitable and inclusive housing in the region.

A media toolkit accompanies the report. Supporters are welcome to use the toolkit to help promote the report and recommendations on Facebook and Twitter.

“We hope that this collaborative report educates residents about our history and supports the kind of creative collective action needed to reverse over a century of destructive policy,” said Dr. Jason Purnell, director of For the Sake of All.

The report was released Wednesday, April 25 at a sold-out a conference of the same name presented by EHOC and For the Sake of All. More than 430 people attended the event at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, was the keynote speaker.

“We have a constitutional obligation to take action to desegregate this country,” Rothstein said while outlining destructive federal policies that explicitly segregated integrated neighborhoods in our country and further pushed many whites into segregated suburban housing developments that restricted African American buyers.

The event included an afternoon workshops led by organizations already working to implement the report’s recommendations in the areas of affordable housing, equitable development, and housing and neighborhood stability. Participants learned about the recommendations and ways to promote and accelerate progress.

Among the presenters was Dr. Molly Metzger, an assistant professor at Washington University and founding member of Team TIF. She discussed the group’s efforts to reform the use of development incentives in the City of St. Louis so that they are used fairly to help disinvested, often segregated neighborhoods that need them most. Jane Oliphant, of Ascend STL, explained how her organization helps low-income renters locate rarely available affordable housing in areas of opportunity. Jackie Langum, an attorney with ArchCity Defenders, discussed the creation of community-based eviction prevention resources that would be located in low-income, segregated areas of St. Louis. 

Other topics included the creation of a “greenlining fund” for lending to combat the pernicious damage caused by the redlining of African American neighborhoods decades ago; support and creation of affordable housing trust funds in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County; and targeted community investment.

Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide is a culmination of two years of community meetings and cross-stakeholder collaboration to better foster quality neighborhoods – one of six priorities that originated from the May 2014 report, For the Sake of All: A Report on the Health and Well-Being of African Americans in St. Louis and Why It Matters for Everyone.

The new report, Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide, presents an overview of more than a century of federal, state, and municipal policies, real estate practices, and development strategies that have kept far too many of the St. Louis region’s residents segregated in neighborhoods with less opportunity to advance economically and fewer resources to support health and well-being.

The report includes a unique “index of exclusivity” that ranks the 41 most exclusionary suburban communities/areas in our region regarding housing inaccessibility for lower-income people and/or African Americans.

“I think many people will be disturbed to see where their communities rank, particularly when they learn of the many policies and practices that went into making them that way,” said Dr. Purnell. “There is a disturbing history of pervasive policies and practices that established and maintain segregation in St. Louis.”

The report also presents maps showing how St. Louis residents of all races and socio-economic backgrounds are often excluded from opportunity by segregated neighborhoods. These maps are coupled with personal stories of residents in our region coping with housing divides that limit access to quality education, job opportunities, health care, retail, transportation, clean air, empowering social networks, and other critical resources.

Readers will learn about Shanette, LaTosha, Sam, Brandy, Derek, Alecia, and others – many of whom share personal stories of what it is like to live in areas that are segregated and disconnected from opportunity. They will also learn from Stephanie, Shauna, Betsy, Thera, Christine, and others who share their experiences regarding our invisible social boundaries with race and economic class that often work against inclusion and equity.

The conference concluded Wednesday with remarks from Dr. Purnell, who asked the audience for ideas on how to create a “consciously inclusive communities” movement in St. Louis.

“We’re in a time when our institutions are falling apart. When things are falling apart, we have an opportunity to think about what our communities should be and could be,” he said.

The release of the report on April 25 further coincided with Forward Through Ferguson‘s formal announcement of its STL2039 Action Plan, a strategy to guide the organization’s work for the next three years as it works to achieve a racially equitable St. Louis by the year 2039.

The report was produced with support from Missouri Foundation for Health and Wells Fargo.

Want to learn more about the report? Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide was recently featured in the following media reports:

St. Louis conference ‘celebrates’ 50 years of Fair Housing Act, by Holly Edgell, St. Louis Public Radio. April 24.

50 years later: What kinds of improvements have been made in housing since the Fair Housing Act?, St. Louis on the Air with Don Marsh, St. Louis Public Radio. April 17.

New report offers recommendations to address housing segregation in St. Louis, by Janelle O’Dea, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. April  25.

(Re)Building a Healthy St. Louis, by  Dr. Robert Hughes,  director, Missouri Foundation for Health. April 26.

Fair housing conference panelists focus on reducing evictions in metro St. Louis, by Chad Davis,  St. Louis Public Radio. April 26.

Detailed Report Highlights Inequalities in St. Louis Housing, Development, by Brett Blum, KMOX NewsRadio. April 26.