The Intersectionality of Housing Justice: Race, Climate, and Disability

March 17, 2023

For the first half of the year, BFJN has decided to dedicate its focus to the issue of housing justice. While we have touched on it before in “Uncomfortable Conversations” and blog posts, we now have the opportunity to explore the issue in more detail.
In our recent podcast Elizabeth, Ivy, and I spoke about our own interactions with the topic and our thoughts thus far. One word to describe the issue was used by us all; intersectionality. The issue of housing justice has a large breadth, and intersects with many other issues of social justice. Three that stick out the most to me, and also are ones that BFJN have focused on, are race, climate, and disability.

  1. Race: People of color are more likely to be extremely low-income renters and disproportionately struggle to pay rent compared with white counterparts. Discrimination in the job market, unequal wages, along with historic discrimination which prevented many people of color from accumulating wealth and investing in the housing market, are all important factors to discuss. Additionally, according to a study, African Americans represent 40% of people experiencing homelessness while whites are significantly underrepresented among the homeless population [1].  Furthermore, these inequalities in housing often intersect with other areas like education or food security. Therefore, in the pursuit of racial justice and equality, one necessarily encounters the need for housing justice as well.
  2. Climate: The issues of housing and climate justice are greatly intertwined. With the increasing and extreme weather such as what is happening in California right now, poor air quality, and other negative environmental conditions, climate change increases the cost of daily living. While turning up the air conditioning or the heat seem insignificant to those of us privileged to live in middle class America, these actions alone can aid in increasing injustice in housing. Further, intersecting again with race, communities of color are hit the hardest by climate change, and similarly, by housing injustice [2]. Another major issue of housing justice is climate displacement. It is estimated that each year, weather-related events force millions of people from their homes. With no prior warning and very little money or direction, terrible injustices are created at the hands of climate change. These climate “refugees” are dealt a difficult hand, even more so because these individuals are not afforded the same protections as refugees of war or oppression [3]. As a result, in working towards a solution for climate change, improvements in housing will necessarily result.
  3. Disability: Disabled adults experience poverty at more than twice the rate of others and therefore, nearly 25% of those experiencing homelessness are disabled [4]. Disabled individuals face ever increasing loads of medical debt, have a more difficult time finding jobs, receive lower pay, among a host of other contributing factors. Similar to what was stated earlier, disabled women and people of color are more likely to be affected by these negative housing trends, yet again contributing to the intersectionality of housing justice.

This blog does not provide any practical solutions. However, I hope that it serves as a reminder to us all of the intersectionality of the issue of housing justice. It relates to each and every one of us in some way and therefore, presents an issue that we all should take notice of. Housing justice is racial justice, climate justice, disability justice. As a result, we all should work to be a part of the solution.


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