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Economic discrimination

Dear Editor:It’s a long way between Hispanic households in Gerry Bovino’s neighborhood.I mention this because Dr. Bovino believes the affordable housing program doesn’t offer enough housing opportunities to the Hispanic portion of the local work force. He speculates without direct evidence that we don’t have many or any Hispanic workers living in affordable housing.Tony Hershey also takes up the cause, claiming that we may be vulnerable to a lawsuit for discrimination. He also is unable to support this claim since he concedes the housing department doesn’t keep track of the race of owners and renters.The census gathers such data and tells a different story.For example, the 2000 census showed that the combined neighborhoods wherein Messrs. Hershey and Bovino live, there were 15 Hispanics in a population of 718. That’s 2.1 percent of the population on Red Mountain and Cemetery Lane. Dr. Bovino and Mr. Hershey live in pricier neighborhoods that are pretty much older, whiter and more homogenous than America as a whole. That’s hardly proof that Dr. Bovino, Tony Hershey or their neighbors are engaged in racial discrimination. I may disagree with each of them on many counts, but I don’t believe for a minute either of them is racist.What’s goes on in the housing market here is economic discrimination. Not many Hispanics, and certainly none of the workers in entry-level jobs that concern Messrs. Hershey and Bovino, can afford the $4 million value on Dr. Bovino’s residence or the $6 million house across the street.While the census data doesn’t reveal individual households, about a dozen predominantly affordable housing neighborhoods were home to 357 self-identified Hispanics in the year 2000, about 40 percent of the entire Hispanic population in Pitkin County. As is the case in more affluent neighborhoods, economics, not racial discrimination, is the biggest barrier to Hispanic workers seeking our affordable housing. About half of all affordable housing sales serve the top quarter of worker incomes in the county. And census data shows Hispanics as a group have lower incomes than the rest of us.I would not support imposing racial set-asides on some of the most heavily Hispanic neighborhoods in the county in order to meet an unspecified goal any more than I would want to require Red Mountain or Cemetery Lane or Base Village to sell exclusively to members of certain racial groups to meet a quota.If the community desires to house more Hispanic workers, the choice is simple but not cheap: Create more low-priced housing opportunities as part of the mix.Mick IrelandAspen


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