Northampton to examine fair access to housing 

  • Northampton City Hall File photo

Staff Writer
Published: 2/9/2019 12:15:06 AM

NORTHAMPTON —

The city has launched an effort to assess fair access to housing in Northampton and learn what barriers may exist for people.

Peg Keller, who works as the Community Development Block Grant director in the mayor’s office, said that the effort is a statutory requirement as a result of the city receiving federal funds but also said that, “it’s the right thing to do.” Northampton is partnering with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission on the project.

“It’s an important responsibility of the city,” Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz said.

The effort is designed to identify racial and ethnic concentrations of poverty, disparities in access to housing opportunities and disproportionate housing needs.

The availability of affordable and accessible housing in the city will also be looked at, as will the impact of the city’s laws, regulations and policies.

Issues of housing discrimination are not uncommon in the Valley. A report released by PVPC in 2014 identified Springfield as having serious issues with racial segregation, including neighborhoods that have some of the worst segregation between whites and Hispanics in the nation.

This was measured by the PVPC using the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s dissimilarity index.

The 2014 report doesn’t highlight Northampton, although it does say that the only community in Massachusetts that is close to fully integrated is North Amherst.

The current project will analyze the city’s housing issues that include potential discrimination on the basis of race, gender identity, sexuality, disability, language, age, and family status.

Those crafting the report have already met with 10 different stakeholder groups, and are in the process of setting up six focus groups, including those who live in housing authority properties, the post-incarcerated population, domestic violence survivors, downtown restaurant workers, people in the recovery community and the homeless.

Keller said the top concerns from these groups to date include cost and availability.

The city will also release a survey to the general public focusing on the issue of fair housing. The survey was drafted in collaboration with PVPC and the Northampton Housing Partnership.

A draft report will be released on May 22 at 7 p.m. at the Northampton Senior Center. No date has been given for when it will be finalized.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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