Discriminatory government and institutional policies and racist cultural attitudes have contorted the American housing market. Generations have been denied access to neighborhoods, quality housing, and the wealth-building of homeownership, particularly based on race and ethnicity. For our first Brass Tacks film night (more will follow!), we’re screening three documentary films that explicitly address the ways in which inequality is inscribed in the housing landscape.
1966 – filmed and edited by Mike Shea, Mike Gray & Jay Litvin – 8 mins
On September 4, 1966, Robert Lucas of the Congress of Racial Equality led a march through Cicero, just outside Chicago, to protest racial restrictions in housing. This brief piece of cinéma vérité shows footage from the day, as tensions rise between black marchers and jeering white Cicero residents.
For the Living
1949 – Leo Seltzer & Lewis Jacobs, dirs. – 21 mins
This promotional film for the New York City Housing Authority advertises new public housing projects as an answer for families denied housing in the private market due to their race, religion, or family status.
The Genesis of Discriminatory Housing Policies
2003 – Llewellyn M. Smith, dir. – 29 mins
In the postwar era, federal government policy and private builders created of the segregated suburbs. This documentary (an excerpt from the PBS episode Race—The Power of an Illusion: The House We Live In) shows how suburbanization fueled the racial wealth gap and the legacy of these discriminatory policies.
We’ll supply the popcorn, candy, and wine. A short discussion will follow the films.
About Housing Brass Tacks
Understanding housing policy, finance, and regulation is daunting. One must wade through a sea of acronyms, untangle public and private interests, trace knotty financial flows, and decrypt complex bureaucracies. Making heads or tails of all this can take a lifetime, but the need to understand is urgent. We all feel New York City’s housing squeeze; increased affordable housing is a centerpiece of our mayor’s agenda; and sweeping changes in housing and community development policy may soon come at the federal level. The Architectural League is here to introduce (or refresh) our housing proficiency. Housing Brass Tacks is an informal discussion series designed as a primer on big ideas and essential mechanics in housing policy and development. We’re getting down to brass tacks: the fundamentals that structure this unwieldy topic.