Experts, advocates talk about housing discrimination in South Bend
SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- A group in South Bend honored the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act with a panel discussion Thursday night.
The Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame is hosting a 2-day conference called “Fighting for Fair Housing.” The group led by Notre Dame law professor Judy Fox kicked off the conference with a panel discussion at the IUSB Civil Rights Center.
“Fair housing has been an issue, unfortunately, in our entire history of this country,” said Fox.
Fox said during the civil rights era, African Americans in South Bend could not buy a home, receive a loan, or even live in certain neighborhoods. Inside of the center, Fox put up posters with covenants from local neighborhoods that said a home could only be bought or leased by a white person.
“Young people say ‘Wow,’ they thought this had happened a lot longer ago than it did,” Fox said. “These things were going on in my lifetime and I’m older but not that old.”
The panel on Thursday focused on the past of housing discrimination in South Bend featuring a member of the Better Homes of South Bend group. This group was made up of African American Studebaker workers who came together to get black people fair and affordable housing.
“It was radical,” said Darryl Heller, the director of IUSB Civil Rights Heritage Center. “Housing is a right, fair, affordable and quality housing.”
Heller said historically this hasn’t been a right afforded to African Americans and other minorities. The Fair Housing Act was signed in 1968, Harrell said since then, South Bend still has a long way to go.
“We see the west side, and the lake area being still heavy concentration of African Americans,” Heller said. “Where if you look, you know kind of the north, the east side of the city its less so.”
Fox said the bigger issue is lending, she said it’s hard for African Americans in South Bend to get housing and home improvement loans.
“I think one of the main things that we need to do is work on affordable housing,” Fox said.
In a report by the Eviction Lab, South Bend is ranked 13th on the top evicting large cities in the United States. On average in 2016, according to the Eviction Lab, South Bend had three evictions a day and a 6.7 percent eviction rate.
“We are pushing people to worse and worse situations,” Fox said. “And really its extremely hard to find safe affordable housing in South Bend.”
There are many housing developments happening around town, and Fox said events like Thursday show how important it is to speak up for neighborhoods often forgotten about.
“One of the things we’re trying to do is shine a light on neighborhoods like this and say we need these neighborhoods in a community as well,” she said.