Project Home: Soaring Home Prices, Systemic Discrimination Drive Resegregation In Bay Area Communities

BERKELEY (KPIX) — Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley are mapping how systemic racism is leading to resegregation in the housing market.

“Those of us that thought spatial segregation is a factor of the past, (that) we’ve all risen to the middle class and integrated nicely — not so,” said Dr. Karen Chapple of UC Berkeley.

Chapple runs the Urban Displacement Project at UC Berkeley. Her team is mapping how Bay Area cities are becoming whiter and wealthier.

Places like Antioch are considered highly segregated and impoverished. It is 96 percent non-white, whereas other wealthier, whiter areas such as Piedmont in Alameda County have been flagged as experiencing what Chapple calls “advanced exclusion.”

Chapple’s group also found social services rarely overlap with segregated poor areas which, Chapple says, is a huge problem.

“Social services are still located in the core cities and, if people lose access to them, that then leads to sort of cascading effects of disadvantage,” Chapple said.

Miquesha Willis is a construction worker from San Francisco who makes $30 an hour but still can’t afford to stay in the city she was born and raised in.

“It’s very emotional when you’re living in that cycle and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Willis said.

Just before the pandemic hit, she walked door-to-door in San Francisco city hall with a group of black homeless advocates telling her story and the story of other black community members like her to city supervisors.

Willis says she wants to know why someone with a decent salary and consistent work is now, in her words, homeless. “I’m staying with my mom with my son,” Willis said.

Before she left her stable housing, Willis says the only place she found that she could afford to rent was in Antioch.

“I had my own place before but I had to move out of the city to get it. I came back because I work in the city,” Willis said.

She says unreliable transportation made it nearly impossible for her to get to work.

“There wasn’t BART running there so, in construction, you have to be up at five o’clock in the morning and I couldn’t even get to work after my car broke down. So then I found myself staying at my mom’s house,” Willis said.

Willis came to city hall in San Francisco to shine some light on an ugly truth about the region’s housing affordability crisis: it is leading to resegregation.

Donmonique Daniels was born and raised in Oakland but now lives in Richmond, another segregated area that’s mostly non-white.

KPIX followed Daniels’ family last year while they were being evicted from their Oakland triplex.

The owner of the triplex moved his son into one unit and forced Daniels’ family out.

Daniels is a teacher. Her mother Terema is a nurse and always paid the rent on time but, back then, owner move-ins gave landlords the legal right to evict all tenants and raise rents in the other units to market rate.

“There was no conversation, they refused to speak to us. If they just came over and had a conversation I would not be opposed to paying a little more,” Daniels’ mother Terema Pettus said.

After KPIX aired their story, Oakland changed its law regarding owner move-ins without just cause but it was too late for Daniels’ family.

“We didn’t know what we were going to do or, like, where we were going to go and the rents around here are really high,” Daniels said.

They were able to buy a home in Richmond. Daniels says she feels lucky they could make it work but, still, Richmond doesn’t feel like home.

“It’s pretty sad to be from here and seeing the changes that are being made and that they don’t include me or people that look like me,” she said.

Both Daniels and Willis fall into that missing-middle category — they make too much money to qualify for housing subsidies but don’t make enough to pay the going rate in their hometown.

“My wages are OK but it’s not enough for San Francisco,” Willis said.

“We’re losing culture. We’re losing a sense of community,” Daniels said.

“To think that we can actually build a new culture in exclusive suburbs … is kind of wishful thinking so some of this is going to be lost forever,” Chapple said.

Chapple argues there’s still a lot that can be done. Most importantly, she says, resources need to be shared regionally so those who have been forced to the fringes don’t end up being even more disconnected.

“If we just leave it to the market, it’s all going to sprawl out and we’re not going to have optimal solutions for the region or for communities,” Chapple said.

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