Human life occurs within complex and overlapping socioeconomic, cultural, political, and environmental systems. Constructs within these systems are often fundamentally flawed by individual and societal bias that create barriers of injustice and inequality. Intersectionality is the concept that these complex and overlapping systems create individual and unique experiences of discrimination and oppression. The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines intersectionality as “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.”
Housing insecurity disproportionately affect low-income communities, people of color, indigenous people, women, LGBTQ+, and immigrants. Intersectionality highlights the concept that all oppression is linked and that the interconnected nature of social categories like these, increase the likelihood of an individual experiencing discrimination and disadvantage.
Decades of racist and unequal housing policies have created a system defined by racial disparities. People of color are more likely than white households to be extremely low-income renters with 20% of black households categorized as extremely low-income renters compared to just 6% of white households.
The majority of low-income renters with high cost burdens, defined as paying more than half of their income for housing, are people of color. The struggle to pay rent increase the risk for instability, eviction, homelessness, food insecurity, poor health outcomes, lower academic achievement, and lower economic mobility. High opportunity neighborhoods provide one of the best opportunities for upward mobility, but, as a result of decades of intentional discriminatory public policy such as redlining, families of color disproportionately reside in lower-opportunity areas.
Where race intersects with other socially disadvantaged categories (ex. Low-Income, LGBTQ, etc.), these disparities are heightened. According to a 2019 study by The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, poverty rates increase drastically along racial lines and among LGBTQ populations.
Housing choice vouchers are an effective way to reduce housing instability and homelessness and provide low-income households with greater housing choice and mobility. Vouchers can also make a major contribution to lifting people out of poverty and reducing racial inequity: the housing affordability challenges that vouchers address are heavily concentrated among people with the lowest incomes and, due to a long history of racial discrimination that has limited their economic and housing opportunities, people of color.
Unfortunately, only 1 in 4 voucher-eligible families receive any type of federal assistance, with long waiting lists for vouchers across the county. The Fayetteville Housing Authority Housing Choice Voucher waiting period is currently 3+ years.