«AmericAn neighborhoods: inclusion And exclusion Volume 16, Number 3 • 2014 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development | Office of Policy ...»
What Residents Say: Perceptions of Diversity Diversity is a defining feature of the South End’s identity. Virtually everyone described the South End as the most diverse neighborhood in Boston or in all of New England when asked to describe the neighborhood. Although this diversity was usually mentioned first in terms of racial-ethnic diversity, residents were quick to point out the economic and lifestyle diversity of the area as well. For many residents, the racial and income diversity of the South End went hand in hand. John, a White, moderate-income city employee, had recently moved himself, his wife, and his daughter into a two-bedroom affordable condominium in a mixed-income building. As he explained it, “The building is occupied by owners: one-third low income, one-third moderate income—that’s us—and one-third own it outright. That’s the makeup of my building. It’s an ethnic bouillabaisse mixture, okay? And we love living there.” Angel, a Hispanic low-income resident who had lived in the South End since the 1970s, said, “There is a great interesting mix of people, of income ranges and races and all sorts of things. Because no one ever owned it [the South End]. It wasn’t like other neighborhoods in Boston that had been Irish forever, or had been Black, or had been whatever. It was always a mix.
In addition to talking about racial and economic diversity, residents also mentioned a diversity of lifestyles in the neighborhood—gay residents and artists juxtaposed with young professional couples with baby carriages and with addicts and homeless individuals using the neighborhood’s hospital, clinics, homeless shelters, and transitional housing. Gloria, a White professional, said, “You’ve got the very rich and the very poor. And you’ve also got the whole alternative scene. Versus there are some neighborhoods that have more minorities but not as many rich people [and are] not really alternative.” The only notable lack of diversity residents observed was the absence of a significant middleclass presence. As Harry, a White, middle-aged, moderate-income resident, commented, “A middle? No... there’s no middle class here. I mean, I don’t see—they don’t fit in here.
I see that you have money that can afford these buildings and the rent, okay. If you don’t have the money for rent, then you maybe get one of those low-income subsidized apartments, stuff like that. But other than—anything in between, no.” The perceived absence of a middle class is starker than the actual income statistics suggest (see exhibit 2), but it is clear that very rich and very poor residents are disproportionately represented in the South End. Subsidized housing constructed during urban renewal ensured that low-income households were able to remain in the face of growing property values, but middle-income residents have fewer housing options. Middle-income residents like Harry either purchased homes in the neighborhood decades ago, when prices were affordable, or they were lucky enough to find one of the few moderate-income subsidized units that exist in the neighborhood, as John did.
Many residents—rich and poor, White and non-White—mentioned that the diversity of the South End was part of what attracted them to the idea of living in the area. They were looking for the diversity of lifestyles and races and the cultural richness that comes with it. Rosa, a Peruvian woman who grew up in a predominantly Hispanic part of Boston said, “I didn’t want to be somewhere where there was only like one race, you know, just Hispanics or just White, just Black. I just wanted something very diverse.... It’s really rich in culture, and that’s what I really like and I enjoy.” Respondents also perceived certain personal benefits to living in a diverse neighborhood, although the type of benefits they perceived varied along race and class lines. Few respondents of any race or income bracket mentioned upward mobility as a potential benefit of living in a diverse community, but many affluent and White respondents reported that living in the South End had made them more tolerant of others from different backgrounds. For example, Marilyn, an affluent White architect, said, “The social aspects are so beneficial and so interesting.... You really see the struggles—you know, it’s the kinda neighborhood that you see things and, boy, makes you appreciate what you have.... It makes you wanna reach out to some extent also and be more understanding of people in different situations.” By contrast, the main benefit perceived by many lower income and minority respondents was a greater feeling of safety. Many had either lived or spent considerable time in more disadvantaged, segregated neighborhoods with higher rates of crime and victimization. They felt much safer in the South End, where indeed violent crime rates are lower than in many of Boston’s
poorer neighborhoods. They noted that the presence of groups with more power—namely the more affluent homeowners—demanded a greater presence of and responsiveness from police and city services. For example, Regis, an African-American subsidized tenant in a mixed-income building, recalled that when men from a nearby halfway house were suspected of “shooting up” in the tool shed of the community garden next door, his neighbors “made up little cards so everybody had all the security numbers and could call 911 from their cell. We got rid of them, but it was a lot of work.... That never would have happened in Mattapan [the high-poverty neighborhood where he lived before].” Residents recognized the potential benefits of diversity, but not all were as optimistic as Marilyn and Regis. Sam, a high-income resident and leader of a neighborhood association, said— This neighborhood, in my opinion, has great opportunities to promote people getting along from different backgrounds. You certainly see people of different colors and different sexualities and backgrounds walking around on the street.... So the opportunity, I think, is there.... So it’s a question of, do they go to the same daycare center, and do their children interact? Do they shop at the same stores?
Although virtually all the respondents stated that diversity was something they valued and many felt that they benefited from that diversity in some way, Sam’s questions foreshadow important issues: whether propinquity translated into actual interaction and whether those encounters resulted in experiences of inclusion or exclusion.
What Residents Do: Microsegregation Amid Diversity Despite residents’ appreciation of the South End’s diversity, a closer examination of their daily lives and their use of neighborhood organizations and public spaces revealed that proximity and appreciation for diversity did not lead to much cross-race or cross-class contact. Instead, residents developed patterns of microsegregation, or homogenous pockets of interaction and organization within the larger neighborhood. Microsegregation occurred informally—through daily routines, interactions, and use of neighborhood space—and also more formally through neighborhood associations and organizations. In turn, patterns of microsegregation fueled race- and class-based perceptions of inclusion and exclusion that belied the simple, idealized characterizations of diversity residents initially espoused.
Spatial Differentiation Although the South End covers less than 1 square mile, it has a long history of spatial differentiation, with small groupings of residential blocks containing distinct social groups and identities. Indeed, a city planning document from the 1960s noted that the South End is “a neighborhood more by definition of geography and architecture... than because of any inherent unity of interest” (Keyes, 1969: 52). This differentiation is still clearly visible today.
For example, exhibit 5 shows the mosaic pattern of household incomes by census block groups within the South End. Block groups with median household incomes of more than $100,000 are adjacent to block groups with median incomes of less than $20,000.
Exhibit 5 Median Household Incomes of Block Groups Within the South End, 2010 Source: 2006–2010 American Community Survey 5-year data, prepared by Social Explorer (http://www.socialexplorer.com/ ac152ddd94/view) The variation in income across these small areas is directly related to the presence and type of subsidized housing. Some areas remain homogenously low income because of the siting of large subsidized housing developments, and areas that lacked any subsidized housing have become nearly completely affluent. Areas that have maintained an economically diverse resident population have done so primarily through the integration of scattered-site affordable units and smaller nonprofit-owned affordable developments that were constructed during urban renewal alongside market-rate housing (Tach, Pendall, and Derian, 2014). The
affordable units were constructed with funding from the 221(d)(3) program, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program, Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), and the HOME Investment Partnerships Program.3 Income differences in the South End overlap with racial differences; areas with little affordable housing are disproportionately White, and areas with plentiful affordable housing are disproportionally non-White. Exhibit 6 shows a similar mosaic pattern for the non-White Exhibit 6 Percentage Non-Hispanic White Population Block Groups Within the South End, 2010 Source: 2010 decennial census, prepared by Social Explorer (http://www.socialexplorer.com/ac152ddd94/view) Section 221(d)(3) offered below-market interest rates for nonprofit and for-profit developers in exchange for including units affordable to low- and moderate-income families; it was replaced by the Section 236 program in 1968 and by the Section 8 New Construction and Substantial Rehabilitation Program in 1974. The LIHTC Program offers housing developers subsidies, in the form of tax credits, to finance the development of affordable housing. The CDBG program provides formula grants to state and local governments to use for a range of community development needs, including, but not limited to, affordable housing. HOME provides formula grants to states and localities to use, often in partnership with local nonprofit organizations, to fund the construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing.
share of the population, which mirrors that of low- and high-income populations in exhibit 5.
Racial differentiation also appears among the affordable housing complexes. Castle Square is disproportionately Asian, owing to its close proximity to Boston’s Chinatown. Villa Victoria is disproportionately Hispanic, particularly Puerto Rican, reflecting the presence of ethnic organizations involved in the provision of affordable housing. Villa Victoria was developed by Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción, or IBA, a Puerto Rican community organization that opposed urban renewal in the 1960s and gained the authority to develop and manage the 435-unit affordable housing complex as a result of those struggles. The organization continues to offer education, workforce development, and arts programming for the community. Finally, the Cathedral public housing project (recently renamed the Ruth Lillian Barkley Apartments) retains dense concentrations of African-Americans, which reflects the legacy of racial segregation in the Boston Housing Authority (Vale, 2005).
Most respondents were aware of these pockets of income and racial homogeneity within the South End. Alex, an affluent White architect who lived in the South End for more than a decade, observed that— If you take the South End as a whole, it’s an extremely diverse place. But if you zoom in a little bit closer, it’s extremely segregated.... If you look at it a little closer, you’ll see the Blacks live here, the Puerto Ricans live here, the Asians live here, Whites live here. It’s not a tremendously integrated place. I mean it is along the edges, you know, at the intersection of those... but by and large, you know, there’s a lump of these, there’s the lump of those, and there’s the lump of those.
Rosa, a low-income young Hispanic resident, observed the same “lumps” in the South End— You know, it’s mixed, but then it’s not mixed. You have like certain areas with a lot of Latinos. You have certain areas that are a lot of gay[s]. One street’s really quiet and then you walk down the street it’s the projects and a lot of stuff go on down there.... Where I am, it’s really nice; great restaurants, it’s awesome. Then when you go on the other side of the project, it’s a lot of stuff going on, you can hear shooting of guns, shooting and violence.... My street is really White, and you have a lot of gays that live there. And then you have down the street the projects.... It’s like a culture shock [when] you go to different sections.
The “culture shock” Rosa described happens on a very small geographic scale, from street to street and block to block. Descriptions like hers show that the demographic and economic differentiation seen in census data reflects socially and culturally meaningful differences for residents.
Neighborhood Organizations The spatial differentiation of social groups within the South End is accompanied by the differentiation of neighborhood organizations. Each collection of streets or squares has its own neighborhood association, as illustrated in exhibit 7. Some neighborhood associations date back to the late 19th century, and others formed during the mid-20th century when they played a key role in urban renewal planning (Keyes, 1969). The Boston Redevelopment