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Minorities Still Face Obstacles to Housing, Report Finds

September 06, 1996|JOHN COX

Despite apparent gains in racial integration in Bellflower, minorities continue to encounter obstacles as they try to make a home in the city, according to a recent study.

The study prepared by UCLA housing expert Richard Sander documented several barriers that certain groups--especially African Americans and Latinos--confront as they try to rent or buy a home or apartment in the city.

Sander's report, commissioned by the city pursuant to federal housing guidelines, turned up evidence that some landlords have largely subverted a nationwide ban on discrimination against families with children.

Still, Bellflower's growing middle class and low concentration of minorities has allowed the city to avoid the kind of strife other Southern California communities have experienced as their population diversifies, the report said.

Community development director Judith Arandes characterized the findings as "incredibly positive."

"In other cities integration has happened with a lot of pain and a lot of violence sometimes," she said. "We've managed to move from segregation to integration rather painlessly."

Arandes downplayed the report's suggestion that systemic discrimination impedes some groups from moving into Bellflower. To address that issue, she said, the city must conduct further study while conferring with the body that handles most of Bellflower's housing matters, the Fair Housing Foundation of Long Beach.

Foundation representatives could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Sander's chapter on racial and family discrimination in Bellflower described markedly different impediments to fair housing facing African Americans and Latinos. African Americans seem to have more problems buying a home than renting in the city, he said, while Latinos often get worse rental agreements, such as higher rents and month-to-month leases.

One possible hindrance to fair housing in Bellflower is what Sander calls "steering." He said in an interview that because Lakewood's African American community has grown more rapidly in recent years than Bellflower's, some real estate brokers find themselves directing African American home buyers to Lakewood.

"There's a tendency [for real estate agents] to act in ways that are consistent with those stereotypes," Sander said.

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