About Our Project

A recent report by CNY Fair Housing reported on the state of housing in Syracuse and Onondaga County, and the implications, particularly, for certain groups or “classes:” those include minorities, the disabled, seniors, refugees and immigrants, large families, and those receiving certain kinds of public assistance.

Of particular note is a previous assessment of Syracuse as “hyper-segregated,” the ninth most racially segregated metropolitan area in the country. It’s evident not only in how the city is divided, but in the school system as well. The CNYFH analysis reveals that this finding is reinforced in how and where people live here.

What’s in the report?

The report — Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housingmeasures differences in access to opportunity in three categories: economics, education and housing. The report states: “Compared to Whites, African-Americans in Onondaga County are more than twice as likely to live in an area of low economic opportunity, four times more likely to live in an area of low educational outcomes and three times more likely to live in an area of low housing and neighborhood opportunity.” To illustrate how these three factors affect minority residents in particular, CNYFH analyzed existing data and presented it in a variety of ways: charts, maps, narrative analysis and recommendations.

The report explains that unfair housing practices that impede equal access are those that interfere with a family living in a home of its choosing. The report explains: “Impediments to fair housing are not merely acts of discrimination, but any factor that limits the access to housing opportunities for members of protected classes.”

A: Under federal law, it is illegal in the housing market to discriminate against certain people or groups of people by race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or family status (to refuse large families, or single-mother families, for example). Under New York state law, additional protected classes include: age, marital status, military status, sexual orientation, and gender identity. A City of Syracuse law prohibits discrimination of transgender individuals, based on a person’s actual or perceived sex or gender identity.

A: The three indexes measured in the report are: Housing & Neighborhood Opportunity, Economic Opportunity and Educational Outcomes. These are measured on a 1 to 5 scale for each census tract, with “1” representing the lowest outcome, and “5” the highest. These are reflected as Very Low (1), Low (2), Moderate (3), High (4) and Very High (5). A “1” rating for the Economic Opportunity index, for example, would mean that households make little and quite likely live in poverty.

A: Using this data, you can look up any address, identify its census tract, and see where it falls on each of the three indexes. Of the 48,852 African-Americans living in Onondaga Country, 51% reside in census tracts characterized as having very low housing and neighborhood opportunity. According to the Executive Director of CNY Fair Housing Sally Santangelo, “If you were to tell me a child’s address in Onondaga County, I could predict with pretty good certainty what that child’s race might be and what their life outcomes might be.”

A: The report finds Hispanics fair only slightly better, with 41% living in areas with very low housing and neighborhood opportunity. In comparison, only 10% of whites live in census tracks classified as very low opportunity.

A: Because the report found the African-American community was most affected by unfair housing practices and because the largest African-American populations can be found in the City of Syracuse, the report and this project focus on this population and the city.

Why report on the report?

Our focus is on African-Americans and families because this group stood out as having the greatest struggle with all three opportunity indexes. Stories told include: Personal accounts of all kinds; the Section 8 subsidy program; disparities in our educational system; experiences with discrimination; and others.

Through a collaboration including Newhouse’s Urban Affairs Reporting class, editors from an Advanced Editing Class, and CNY Fair Housing, we put faces on the data to tell real people’s stories — residents directly touched by the identified disparities.

What is our goal?

By sharing honest, personal accounts of residents, and by focusing on the people who work at local agencies, we personalize the numbers, charts, maps and indexes. The project is about residents, decision-makers and policy-makers, those who use the system and who make it run, often up against long odds — and sometimes, in the face of scorn. The project embodies a vital mission of journalism: giving voice to the voiceless.

About our partners:

CNY Fair Housing is an independent, not-for-profit that works to create equal housing opportunity and to eliminate housing discrimination through the enforcement of housing discrimination laws. CNYFH’s mission it to educate everyone about their rights and responsibilities in the housing market. It advocates for neighborhood diversity.

S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications is committed to educating ethical, visionary communicators who champion an open marketplace of ideas guided by the First Amendment, using contemporary professional practices.

Tell Us Your Story

Where you live in the city can affect everything: your access to a good home; your kids’ education and their opportunity to attend the best schools; the kinds of places where you can work. Our city is one of the most segregated in the nation: whites, blacks, Hispanics are clustered in certain neighborhoods. Countywide, schools are especially segregated. Outright discrimination does persist, but for most people in Syracuse it’s not about that. Discrimination is outlawed, but years of segregated living, and its outcomes, have yet to be undone.

If you’d like to share your story, we’re interested. You can tell us. Maybe you’d even like to tell your story yourself. We’ll work with you to do that, too.

Max AntonucciAbout