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New Suburbia, Part 2

The Problem of Resegregation in Suburbia

A Minnesota law professor says racial integration is the key to stable and prosperous suburbs.

CityLab, Feb. 15, 2016 (cross-posted on The Atlantic

Myron Orfield, who directs the Institute for Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota, has had a multifaceted career: civil-rights lawyer, state legislator, professor, and author of books on regional governance and suburban development. (He’s also the brother of the well-known social scientist Gary Orfield, an expert on school segregation.)

In a paper he co-authored in 2012, Orfield described the state of integration in U.S. suburbs as fragile, and called for stepped-up enforcement of the Fair Housing Act to stop illegal practices like mortgage discrimination and racial steering. Two years later, Orfield published a paper assessing the reasons for segregation in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and their suburbs. The prosperous region that is home to many Fortune 500 companies is deeply segregated.

Orfield helped a group of Minneapolis inner-ring suburbs file a complaint with HUD over the state’s allocation of affordable housing in their jurisdictions (they allege they have more than their fair share of it, while whiter, wealthier suburbs are allocated less). Meanwhile, Orfield has become a lightning rod: His prescriptions for integration and views on affordable housing are divisive locally. CityLab sat down with him in his Minneapolis office.

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