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Axios' Sara Kehaulani Goo, Aja Whitaker-Moore, and Russell Contreras hosted a conversation on America's housing inequities as part of our series dedicated to covering the impact of race in America. This conversation featured former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, Habitat for Humanity International CEO Jonathan Reckford, and National Fair Housing Alliance president Lisa Rice.

Jonathan Reckford unpacked how structural racism has shaped the realities of housing today and the goal of creating accessible communities.

  • On the legacy of segregated housing policies following World War II: "Black families were denied access to growing communities and then denied access to financing, which meant they largely missed out on that wealth-building boom for so many middle-class families that allowed them to create an intergenerational asset through the housing."

Julián Castro highlighted how homeownership disparity is a fundamental part of the wealth gap between white people and people of color in America.

  • Why owning a home is a racial equity issue: "Homeownership is so important because, for most Americans, that makes up the bulk of their wealth. And that's especially true for Black Americans and people of color."
  • On meeting the needs of renters as well as homeowners: "We know that we have a rental affordability crisis that also intimately impacts communities of color around this country. We need to do both of these things to ensure that there's a path to homeownership and then also address the very real challenges of skyrocketing rents."

Lisa Rice discussed the impact of the pandemic on housing equity and critical issues for the next presidential administration to address.

  • On the importance of enforcing housing laws that already exist: "We've never really had wide-scale comprehensive enforcement of our nation's fair housing laws. And unfortunately, over the past three and a half years, what we have seen from the White House and the administration is a consistent rollback and evisceration of fair housing and fair lending protections."
  • On how artificial intelligence could amplify racial discrimination in housing: "[AI] mirrors and reflects the bias that is existence already in our marketplace. And sometimes they actually amplify the bias that is replete throughout the market."

Axios' Chief People Officer Dominique Taylor hosted a View from the Top segment with Capital One Head of Community Finance Desiree Francis, unpacking how disparities made worse by COVID-19 build on past economic crises.

  • On the legacy of the 2008 economic crash: "Communities of color haven't recovered from the Great Recession. High levels of foreclosure equated to loss in housing value...These same communities are overrepresented in low-income jobs that have been greatly impacted by COVID-19."

Thank you Capital One for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 27, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: Global data-driven change

On Thursday, January 27, Axios' Ina Fried hosted a conversation on the social impact of Big Data, featuring Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) and former U.S. chief technology officer and founder and CEO of shift7, Megan Smith.

Megan Smith. unpacked how data can help solve some of the biggest equity issues across our economy and society today, and the importance of having everyone at the table.

  • On solving social issues that are exacerbated by new technologies: "It's just not for the tech community to decide [how to fix this] on behalf of all of us, especially because they face extraordinary bias in their hiring practices and their teams' dismissiveness of people who are not of a certain group."
  • On how the government should approach solving problems that cross technological and policy divides: "The key there is less about what and more about who. Who is in the government teams, who is actually in the tech teams? Are they more balanced? How do we get more of society at the table together so that we're more fluent as we work on this?"

Rep. Yvette Clarke highlighted the risks and rewards of using Big Data, as well as the shared responsibility of the public and private sectors to keep the public informed.

  • On how algorithms can amplify existing biases: "[Big Data] can be great in making advances in our civil society. The other side is it can become a mirror of some of the inequities that exist in the real world...and that reflection can be programmed into algorithms."
  • On a balanced approach to technology regulation: "I really want to make sure that the public is educated and informed...[That] we also hold the companies accountable for the ways in which they perpetuate harm in certain respects and reward where they're doing good."

Axios' Chief People Officer Dominique Taylor hosted a View from the Top segment with Intel Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer Sandra Rivera to discuss collaboration and creating change from within the tech industry.

  • "We have convened other industry leaders to really drive meaningful, lasting change forward. This is such a big challenge and opportunity. It doesn't really work that any one company can do [it] alone: We take our role in terms of leading that work by participating, collaborating with other tech giants."

Thank you Intel for sponsoring this event.

22 mins ago - Health

CDC director says COVID-19 messaging should have been clearer

Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the messaging around the COVID-19 pandemic and changing guidance should have been clearer.

State of play: Walensky is being coached by media experts and is planning to have more press briefings by herself in order to ensure that CDC is seen as an independent, scientific entity, rather than as a political one, the Journal reports.

40 mins ago - World

Emiratis ask Blinken to label Houthis terrorist designation

Secretary of State Tony Blinken (left) listens to United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan during a joint news conference at the State Department iin October. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed asked Secretary of State Tony Blinken in a phone call Monday to re-designate the Houthi rebels in Yemen as a terrorist organization, a senior Emirati official told Axios.

Why it matters: Less than a month after he assumed office, President Biden rolled back the Trump administration’s decision to make the designation. He said it hampered humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people. Since then, the Houthis have escalated their attacks against Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region — including an attack Monday on Abu Dhabi.