After the state changed its formula, developers proposing projects in high-opportunity areas received more points than they had before. Since then, more developers have built tax-credit developments in the suburbs, Betsy Julian, the executive director of Inclusive Communities, told me.
Fearing legal action, Dallas-area cities with predominately white populations, including Frisco and McKinney, also agreed to build affordable properties in the last few years. Though Inclusive Communities had to fight “tooth and nail” to get these projects built, “what you’ll see is a lot of the fears that people had with regards to the effect of the project on the value of their homes didn’t really have merit,” Julian said. One of the projects built because of an Inclusive Communities is in Sunnyvale, a Texas town that banned multifamily units and fought multiple court orders to allow them. D Magazine recently called it “the whitest town in north Texas.”
Still, Justices Thomas, Scalia, Alito, and Roberts heartily dissent with the decision. In a separate opinion, Justice Thomas reminds the court that racial imbalances don’t always disfavor minorities—Chinese were minorities in Malaysia, for instance, but still controlled the industry in that nation.
Furthermore, “This Court has repeatedly confirmed that ‘racial balancing’ by state actors is patently unconstitutional,’” Thomas writes.
But the majority does not see the policies behind Inclusive Communities as “racial balancing,” and indeed, warns against such policies. Instead, it allows housing developers to work with states to show that certain projects serve a valid interest, whether it be rejuvenating a depressed neighborhood or creating new housing for minorities in a wealthy area.
“The [Fair Housing Act] does not decree a particular vision of urban development; and it does not put housing authorities and private developers in a double bind of liability, subject to suit whether they choose to rejuvenate a city core or to promote new low-income housing in suburban communities,” Kennedy writes.
Many housing advocates still worry that this ruling will lead to less spending on housing in high-poverty, inner cities that need the most help.
“They're going to leave the neighborhood-based programs in the dust,” Mark Rogers, the executive director of Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation, an East Austin-based housing group, told me.
Indeed, some Austin projects built before the Inclusive Communities lawsuit that have helped to revitalize high-poverty neighborhoods would not have won tax credits now, Julian Huerta, the deputy executive director of Foundation Communities, an Austin tax-credit developer, told me. M Station, a project approved in 2009 and located in East Austin, would have lost in the tax-credit process to another Foundation Communities development in Austin’s wealthy west side, called Southwest Trails.