More than three dozen Springfield residents joined city and state officials at the city council chambers Tuesday to address a recent University of Michigan study on segregation. The report claims the Metro-Springfield area, which the study describes as encompassing Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties, is one of the most racially segregated in the country. The study is cited in a draft report by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission that will be released next week. The report acknowledges that while Springfield is the most ethnically diverse community in the region, its neighborhoods are not. Dave Gaby of the group Open Housing for Western Massachusetts says he’s not surprised by the findings. He says today’s housing patterns go back to after World War 2. At that time urban renewal, abetted by public funds and private practices, like red-lining or discriminatory lending, began changing what had previously been diverse neighborhoods.
“Even after the 1948 decision that banned racial covenants, there’s definitely a move on the part of the banks and the real estate agencies to try to channel people into a segregated living pattern.”
City Councilor Bud Williams, who called Tuesday’s meeting, says he wants to address the issue further with other stakeholders to find innovative solutions to the housing issue, which he notes also affects schools, healthcare, shopping and crime in the city.
“The policies that the city uses to enhance the quality of life should be creative, should marry rich folk, poor folk together. Initiatives, sub-divisions that foster that kind of harmony that we don’t have. That’s what’s missing here, the harmony isn’t here.”
But Williams and others at Tuesday’s meeting added that it is also the responsibility of Springfield’s overwhelmingly white neighboring communities in the Metro region to address segregation.