THE BAD HOUSING BLUES: Discrimination in the Housing Choice Voucher Program in Memphis, TN


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Memphis, Tennessee has a long history of racial bias and economic inequality, and often, these forces have worked hand in-hand. Memphis is where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. traveled to stand with Black sanitation workers in protest of inequitable wages and unsafe working conditions in April 1968. While it has been 54 years since Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Black Memphians still find themselves fighting against the injustices of racism and economic inequality. Today, the continued convergence of these two problems has manifested quite conspicuously in housing availability. This reality prompted the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) and the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) to interrogate economic and racial discrimination in housing, with a specific focus on the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program—otherwise known as “Section 8.” Together, LDF and NFHA conducted a study of Memphis, Tennessee and the greater Shelby County area where Memphis is located, examining the local rental market and performing a fair housing testing audit of housing providers to assess attitudes and identify policies and practices that impede the ability of voucher holders to secure safe and affordable housing.