On November 15, 2017, a new book featuring interviews with several Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) staff members and testers was released, called The Arsenal of Exclusion and Inclusion. Written by Interboro Partners, a New York City-based architecture, planning and research collective led by Tobias Armborst, Daniel D’Oca, and Georgeen Theodore, the book explores why cities are designed the way that they are and the impact such design can have. Specifically, this encyclopedic-style guide catalogs various tools or “weapons” that architects, designers, real estate agents, policymakers, community activists and others use to either exclude or include certain people from accessing public and private spaces. The book features contributions from more than 50 architects, designers, planners, historians, and industry experts.
Of the various weapons of exclusion and inclusion discussed within the book, one entry is dedicated to the history and policies of racial residential segregation and the struggle for fair housing. The section on fair housing also features an interview with FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg, Senior Investigative Coordinator Lizette Carrion, and four FHJC testers about the importance of testing in uncovering and eliminating housing discrimination.
“[Fair housing testing] is absolutely essential because what we know about the discrimination is that there’s no way to capture this discrimination and document it without testing,” said Freiberg in the interview.
Freiberg is also quoted saying, “Dr. King used to say laws cannot change hearts and minds, but they can restrain the actions of the heartless, and that’s largely what we do in this work. We can’t change their hearts and minds but we can change their conduct, and that’s what we seek to do.”
During the interview, FHJC testers discussed their role in the process of combating housing discrimination. An African American tester, Kaaron, stated: “When you’re discriminated against, it breaks off a little piece of your soul every time.” Still, Kaaron added, “I’m hopeful, but I know that change is hard. I know that discrimination is deeply ingrained.”
Another tester, LB stated, “For me, it’s a concrete way to address institutionalized racism. If we win, there is a legal consequence (and a monetary consequence). It’s very effective.”
FHJC tester Lisa summed it up this way, “[FHJC] is trying to make the playing field even for everyone so that people can get adequate housing and live where they want to live. It’s something that’s not just a job. And then when you start seeing the effects of what you’re doing, it’s great. You are actually making a difference.”
One of FHJC’s cases is also cited in another part of the book that discusses how requiring prospective buyers to present “Letters of Recommendation” from existing shareholders is a policy that has been used as a weapon by some housing cooperatives to discourage or exclude prospective buyers based on race.
To learn more about The Arsenal of Exclusion and Inclusion, click here.
To purchase a copy of The Arsenal of Exclusion and Inclusion, click here.