Former Ald. Tim Bruer once called it apartheid.
He was referring to what amounts to segregation of African-Americans and Latinos in north and south Madison.
In ultra-liberal Madison? Definitely. Recent analyses have offered proof.
The “Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice” done by MSA Professional Services Inc. for the city of Madison found that the barriers included the preponderance of affordable housing projects being directed toward low-income neighborhoods.
The study found that though the citywide percentage of African-American residents was 7.3 percent, the highest concentrations — over 20 percent African-American — are in the north, south and southwest parts of the city. The report added that “the Latino population is even more concentrated and segregated.”
The census tracts where African-Americans and Latinos are concentrated also have the highest percentages of those receiving food stamps and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
How and why did this happen?
The report stated that “multiple factors have tended to result in the development of affordable housing units in low-income neighborhoods, including the perception that that is where the units should be, stronger resistance from neighbors in other neighborhoods, and the relatively lower cost of land in those neighborhoods.” The report added that affordable housing should be close to employers.
Commenting on the report, Laurel Bastian, program services coordinator for the Fair Housing Center of Greater Madison, wrote that “segregation based on race and ethnicity does indeed exist in the city of Madison, and this segregation has consequences that may impede housing choice.”
Brenda Konkel of the Tenant Resource Center also criticized the report for failing to seriously address concentrations of people of color on the north and south sides of Madison. I insisted at a council meeting that the report should list this segregation as a direct impediment to fair housing. The council agreed.
In a separate analysis, Steve Steinhoff of the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission said that clustering subsidized housing in low-income areas contributes to segregation and isolation, and reduces access to higher-opportunity areas. He also found that two census tracts in south Madison have a family poverty rate above 40 percent — three times the metro area average — and a nonwhite population greater than 50 percent. Additionally, three tracts in north and south Madison come close to those levels.
For instance, Black Group 1 in Census Tract 23.01, which is along Northport Drive in my council District 18, has a 54.5 percent nonwhite population, 46.9 percent below the poverty level and an unemployment rate of 16 percent.
Imagine growing up in a large apartment complex that may or may not be well-maintained, surrounded by neighborhoods made up of single-family homes that you cannot aspire to. Imagine the despair affecting parents who have low-paid jobs that make it difficult to pay for rent and food. Imagine having no car, which prevents you taking a second- or third-shift job because buses are not running.
This is the other Madison that people are starting to talk about. It’s time to do more than talk.
It’s past time to take racial segregation and poverty seriously.
Ald. Anita Weier represents District 18 on Madison's north side.