Bay Area Is Becoming More Racially, Economically Segregated: UC Berkeley Study

Unless change happens soon, the trend is deeper housing and economic disparity, leading to more separation

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The Bay Area is one of the most diverse areas in the nation, but a new study out of the University of California, Berkeley says it has also become more racially divided. 

The university’s Othering and Belonging Institute said entire counties in the north, south, and east bays that were once known for diversity are now more racially - and economically - segregated than in past decades.

The chief culprit may be the cost of housing and what's called “single family zoning,” which prevents many neighborhoods from building anything other than detached single family homes.

"So, zoning is a big part of the story, it's a big part of the story because it makes it much harder, if not impossible, to build affordable housing in the market,” said Stephen Menendian, director of research of the Othering and Belonging Institute.

In fact, the institute refers to the result of housing disparity as, “racial residential segregation,” saying household incomes and home values in white neighborhoods are nearly twice as high as those in communities of color.  

"Where you live determines where your children go to school, it determines whether you're close to a job or have to commute far, it determines whether you're close to amenities, pharmacies, doctors, everything,” said Menendian.

Some cite inequity in long-term policies, and the rise of our tech industry as factors in growing economic inequality.

NBC Bay Area’s Raj Mathai speaks with Digital Data Journalist Sean Myers and Dr. James Taylor, professor of Race and Politics at UCSF, about UC Berkeley’s Bay Area Diversity Reports.

"When we talk about equity in terms of housing, these issues are deep and systemic,” said Ahmad Thomas, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. “The systemic inequities cited in that study are literally the product of generations of policy, generations of laws."

Unless change happens soon, the trend is deeper housing and economic disparity, leading to more separation.

"There will be more wealth gained in 2021 by homeowners, 13% or more, and that furthers the segregation that we're talking about,” said Lisa Blackwell, Oakland real estate advisor.

Moving forward, there is some hope for turning things around. Several Bay Area cities are taking a closer look at revising or scrapping single family zoning rules while tech companies focus hundreds of millions of dollars specifically on reducing housing inequity.

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