Black History Month: Overcoming residential segregation

Black History Month

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester demographics show a majority of African Americans live below the poverty line, more live in the city than in the surrounding suburbs, and many don’t own the home they live in.

These are all barriers that keep some in the African American community from gaining housing independence.

From apartments to town homes, affordable-safe housing seems to be everywhere in the Rochester area — but for some minority groups that is not the case. Community organizations like Action for a Better Community see this problem particularly throughout the black community.

“We know Rochester has high poverty and it’s even higher poverty for, particularly people of African descent,” said Jerome Underwood, President and CEO of Action for a Better Community. “And if your income is limited it’s also going to limit where you can live.”

Education, poverty, and other social barriers are all things that can keep people from finding their dream home. The Rochester Housing Authority has some solutions to help people gain housing independence.

Rochester has a “greater-than-normal residential segregation” according to a report by the Rochester Area Community Foundation.

Between 2014 and 2018, home ownership among White residents was 73%, followed by Asian residents at 55%, Hispanic residents at 35%, and African American residents at 32%.

Through programs like family self-sufficiency and section 8 housing vouchers, the Rochester Housing Authority is trying to make affordable housing a reality for everyone.

“We understand that one of the biggest economic stabilizers is to own your own home,” said Melissa Berrien, a supervisor at the Rochester Housing Authority. “We are a landlord we have almost 2,500 properties all across the city of Rochester.”

It doesn’t just stop with housing programs. Berrien says education and finance can be other barriers and the authority is focusing on new solutions to help people out.

“We try to make sure that our families have all the opportunities that they are afforded in our community. We do things like career fairs, we have FASA fest, we’re also trying to connect our families with any resource that we know that is available to them,” said Berrien.

The Rochester Housing Authority is planning to roll out a new financial literacy program this month — another measure they are using to educate the community about housing options.

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