With the moratorium on evictions set to expire at the end of June, the Biden administration has unveiled an affordable housing plan. It further pledges to eliminate racial discrimination in housing on the basis of removing the barriers to “wealth creation” suffered by the black petty bourgeoisie. But marrying housing and Green New Deal produces higher prices, and fattening up black petty bourgeoisie businesses will never eliminate discrimination in access to a home.
Table of Contents
- Racism and housing in the US: a long history
- The Democratic party won’t part company with racial discrimination…not even to correct it and even less so when housing and Green New Deal come together
- Zoning, housing and Green New Deal for the bourgeoisie and the well-to-do petty bourgeoisie
- Housing and Green New Deal for workers
Racism and housing in the US: a long history
To introduce his housing policies and Green New Deal, Biden, in his speech on the Tulsa Race Massacre, he recounted how redlining, the practice of denying public services to minorities in order to force segregation, harmed the black community. Interestingly, he did not mention Roosevelt once, even though it was his administration that implemented this policy.
The National Housing Act of 1934 was an essential part of the New Deal. Touted as a means to render housing more affordable, it turned racial segregation in housing into a national policy. Until that time, the Democratic party had implemented racial segregation on a state-by-state and local level.
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), created in 1934, furthered segregation efforts by refusing to insure mortgages in and around African-American neighborhoods, a policy known as redlining. At the same time, the FHA subsidized builders who mass-produced entire subdivisions for whites, with the requirement that none of the homes be sold to African Americans…
The term redlining … comes from the development by the New Deal, by the federal government of maps of every metropolitan area in the country. And those maps were color-coded first by the Home Owners Loan Corporation and then by the National Housing Administration and then adopted by the Veterans Administration, and these color codes were designed to indicate where it was safe to insure mortgages. And wherever African Americans lived, wherever African Americans lived nearby, they were colored red to indicate to appraisers that these neighborhoods were too risky to insure mortgages…
In a housing development…in Detroit…. the FHA did not want to go forward, during World War II, with this development unless the developer built a 6-foot high wall, a cement wall, separating his development from a nearby African-American neighborhood to make sure that no African-American could even enter that neighborhood.
The National Housing Administration’s Underwriting Manual recommended using roads to separate African-American neighborhoods from white neighborhoods.A ‘Forgotten History’ Of How The U.S. Government Segregated America
It is true that at the same time in Europe or Argentina similar measures were beginning to be implemented to enforce and reinforce the urban segregation of workers: it was found for example that asymmetrical facilities and roads were very useful to separate working class neighborhoods from petty bourgeois residential areas… especially if bridges were never built over them. But in the US, thanks to the Democrats, the 1934 Act had a distinctive element: it prioritized racism over classism by explicitly discriminating against so-called black neighborhoods, i.e., both poor and wealthy neighborhoods with high black populations.
This explicitly racist policy did not come out of the blue. Since the Great Migration, real estate developers had been practicing racial discrimination under the guise of protecting property values. And the Democrats had been enforcing racial segregation for years in both the South… and the North, where the implementation of neighborhood segregation went hand in hand with the systematization of violence and the absorption of the lumpen by local police structures, linked to Democratic clientelist networks.
In Europe this policy is usually presented as irrational from a capitalist point of view… and therefore alien and contrary to capitalist values. It is true that there was no shortage of blacks perfectly capable of affording house prices in so-calledwhite neighborhoods. But racism serves a powerful function in terms of social control. The Democratic party relied on this strategy from its inception as a pro-slavery party. After the abolition of slavery, it implemented racial segregation as a way to control workers and to appease the Anglo-Saxon petty bourgeoisie who demanded pressure on their competitors.
Racial segregation, of course, did not eliminate the black petty bourgeoisie… but it did provide a barrier to its advancement and even led to the proletarianization of many of its more precarious members.
The New Deal was not just about establishing a welfare state. It was about establishing social peace. Social peace in the United States, because of its particular history and because of the very essence of the Democratic party, depended not only on labor unions… but also on racial segregation. So, although Roosevelt portrayed himself as the first Democrat to move away from his party’s racism, in reality he was the president who established racial segregation in housing nationwide. Housing segregation and the New Deal were as inseparable as racialist housing policies and the Green New Deal are now going to be.
It would not be until the Civil Rights Act of 1968 that racial discrimination in housing would be outlawed. But it is not enough to formally outlaw. For example, it is well known how segregation was facilitated by the Federal Highway Act of 1956. The Civil Rights Movement, moreover, did not stop more highways from destroying majority-black neighborhoods. This infrastructure transformation resulted further in an unreliable and bad public transportation system throughout the United States…. even in big cities like Miami.
The Democratic party won’t part company with racial discrimination…not even to correct it and even less so when housing and Green New Deal come together
The black petty bourgeoisie demands to be provided with a guarantee of social advancement… a goal that is very difficult without strong state intervention in a capitalism of super-concentrated capitals that has been slowed down by the crisis. Therefore, the Democratic party plans to help it through massive state intervention… and by promoting again racial discrimination in the access to housing…
Through the legislation [Down Payment Fairness Act of 2021], buyers could receive up to $20,000 in assistance, or $25,000 in assistance if they qualify as socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. A socially disadvantaged individual is defined in the law as one who has been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias because of his or her identity as a member of a group without regard to his or her individual qualities. An economically disadvantaged individual is one who meets the income requirements of the law.
With these definitions, any individual who identifies as black, Hispanic, Asian American, Native American, or any combination would be eligible. Those who do not identify as members of those groups would have to meet the bill’s income requirements to be eligible.Potential first-time home buyer program seeks to create equity in housing – The Washington Post
The government will also incentivize neighborhood integration and double the share of federal contracts going to small disadvantaged businesses, a category under federal law to which black, latino and other minority businesses belong. In addition, the Biden administration promises to reduce the racial wealth gap by eliminating many zoning restrictions… but we must look beyond the language of racialism to understand what this particular measure is really about.
Zoning, housing and Green New Deal for the bourgeoisie and the well-to-do petty bourgeoisie
What is known in the U.S. as zoning is the closest thing to urban planning in Europe. In principle it should be the meeting point of housing and Green New Deal policies. These plans require in certain neighborhoods minimum plot sizes and allow only single-family dwellings on residential land. According to racialism, such rules exacerbate the so-called racial wealth gap-equivalent in its method of calculation to the gender gap– because it makes housing in the emblematic neighborhoods of the petty bourgeoisie more expensive.
This argument forgets that the US bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie have more than a few black members and have benefited for many years from the rising prices of their single-family homes. And it is not a question of suburb versus city. Since the 1990s, poverty has grown faster in peri-urban developments than in cities. Moreover, poor suburbs, which lack the aforementioned zoning standards, have many times more whiteand latino workers than black workers.
So why present it as a racial issue? Simply because the black petty bourgeoisie is interested in getting a piece of the benefits offered by the Green New Deal through its impact on housing. It understands that housing and Green New Deal are grounds on which it can now rely to increase its share in the exploitation of the U.S. labor power.
The U.S. government, like Germany and other European countries, understands that both the massiveness of single-family housing and the isolation of residential neighborhoods do not fit well with the needs of the Green Deal. Housing and Green New Deal policies rely on much more concentrated models… for the majority. So while the bourgeoisie experiments with new eco-sustainable mansion neighborhoods for their own enjoyment and speculation, like Bainbridge Island in Seattle, where banning zoning won’t change anything, we workers are told that we need to redefine the American dream.
Housing and Green New Deal for workers
When they talk about housing and Green New Deal, they tell us that we should forget the old dream of a big house with a garden and a white picket fence… and instead we should think about co-living, about homes shared with other stranger families, about apartment complexes in neighborhoods previously reserved only for single-family homes, in an efficient public transportation system operating on the urban peripheries, and in smallersingle-family homes.
And that’s because in practice, the intersection of housing and Green New Deal means:
- Reforming the public transportation system to improve labor mobility and address labor shortages.
- The funding by companies like Amazon of so-called affordable housingnear their warehouses so they can easily dispose of a sufficient supply of cheap labor. They will do business with housing and Green New Deal at the same time.
- Tear down highways and rebuild cities to open up more space for investments, including high-end apartment buildings.
- Upgrade other highways and promote electric vehicles, while collecting a mileage tax that applies to both gasoline and electric cars. Not to mention a carbon tax that will raise prices across the board including electricity… and one that, needs no national reach to be imposed already in many states across the country.
- The massive retrofitting (energy rehabilitation) of buildings, including public housing. This is an essential leg of housing and Green New Deal policies. But retrofitting, of course, comes at a price, i.e., it will increase housing prices and rents. It’s a reality openly avowed even by policy supporters, who promise to mitigate but not prevent the effect that rising costs will have on residents. And if we can’t afford any of these affordable options, we can always sleep in motorhomes, or tiny houses!
Biden’s infrastructure plan, like all other national capital infrastructure plans, promises a better future but pushes a massive transfer of income from labor to capital. When it comes to housing and Green New Deal, it is no different either. The infrastructure they offer us does not seek the satisfaction of human needs… but the needs of capital. That’s why all of Biden’s promises, including a higher quality of life and dismantling racism, are just window-dressing for the real solution being pursued: squeezing us even further to encourage a accumulation grip.
As they know that their solutions go through our impoverishment, they redouble precautionary efforts to guarantee social peace…. not only through promises but above all through the imposition of a racialism that invisibilizes the needs of the workers and instead encourages certain branches of the petty bourgeoisie to opt for their own piece of the new flow of income from labor to capital that is being set in motion.
After the feast for capital and the environmental-architectural excesses of the petty bourgeoisie, what is coming is the confluence of a new crisis of housing and Green New Deal on the vast majority of workers.