News Archive September/October 2014

Women's Policy Forum members listened intently to presentations by October speakers, from left, Andy Taff, Downtown Fort Worth Inc., Paul Paine, Fort Worth South Inc., and Naomi Byrnes, Fort Worth Housing Authority. Affordable housing is a hot topic in Fort Worth as the city deals with lengthy waiting lists.

Affordable Housing Demand is High, Supply Needs to Grow

 

Fort Worth is in need of affordable housing that is close to jobs and mass transit, according to three leaders working on behalf of expanding affordable housing to residents of the city. Naomi Byrnes, Fort Worth Housing director, Andy Taft, Downtown Fort Worth Inc. executive director and Paul Paine, executive director Fort Worth South Inc. led a panel discussion on the current status of efforts to expand affordable housing in Fort Worth at the October membership meeting.

 

Byrnes said close to 3,500 people are on waiting lists for public housing and more than 15,000 for housing choice vouchers (last opened in 2011). FWHA manages more than 1,000 public housing apartments, 3,346 affordable apartments, 525 market rate apartments, 5,204 housing choice vouchers, 1,150 vouchers for homeless clients, and 202 new homeowners.  She also said that renters receive training and support through partnerships with other organizations in Fort Worth to prepare them for becoming a renter.

 

De-centralizing public housing is a key step. The Ripley Arnold Complex was sold in 2002 and the proceeds were used to other, newly constructed properties. FWHA is also the first public housing authority in Texas to incorporate and adopt a rental assistance demonstration project. A RAD allows funds for public housing assistance projects to be converted to rental assistance.

 

The FWHA, Downtown Fort Worth Inc., and Department of Housing and Urban Development,  joined together to revitalized and open the 18-unit Knights of Pythias Lofts, 303 Crump, as the newest affordable housing option in Fort Worth. Taft said DFW Inc. was proud to be involved in developing this project and considered it another milestone in adding more affordable housing to downtown Fort Worth.

 

“We need a level playing field for scoring urban centers in the application process to receive tax credits for housing development projects, “ Taft said. ‘The current process doesn’t favor awards for urban centers.”  Rising land prices hampers the city’s ability to build more affordable housing in accessible areas.

 

Paine explained how Fort Worth South Inc. organized in 1996 with a strategic plan to redevelop the area known as the Medical District. Fort Worth South Inc. began as a small group of businesses and community leaders dedicated to the revitalization of the near south side of Fort Worth. Today, the area is an eclectic, vibrant neighborhood with mixed-use development. Fort Worth South “understands and strongly supports affordable housing as a necessary part of growing the near South Side/Medical District. Collaborative efforts with the FWHA are essential to developing more affordable housing in the area.”

 

According to Taft, “workforce and affordable housing development requires subsidy. Plain and simple. The city has been engaging on the issue, but the State Affordable Housing Credit program is out of balance, dramatically rewarding development in outlying areas, far from transit and jobs.”

Struggle for equal rights and equal pay continues despite progress

 

Three distinguished panelists explored the history, legal precedents and current status of equal pay for women at the Sept.10 membership luncheon. Dr. Rachel Croson, dean of the University of Texas at Arlington School of Business, B.C. Cornish, attorney specializing in sex discrimination in the workplace, and Dr. Don Jackson, Texas Christian University retired professor, explained the evolution of women’s rights to equal pay and equal stature under the law.

 

Dr. Jackson explored the history of women’s legal status, beginning with the relegation of women to the role of wife and mother. In one case, a judge refused to grant Myra Bradwell, a women who had passed the Illinois bar exam, the right to practice law in 1873. The decision characterized women as unsuited to the rigors of certain occupations because of their natural “timidity and delicacy."

 

“This decision took 100 years to overcome,” he said.

 

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was the opening action against gender-based discrimination and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act of 1964 included sex as a protected category. Reed vs. Reed in 1971 was the first case to establish a simple hearing on competency versus a presumption in favor of males over females in estate settlements.

Over time, a series of cases and laws followed addressing equality in educational opportunity, credit opportunity, pregnancy discrimination, and sex discrimination in admission to professional schools.

 

Today, Jackson said, “there is still a substantial wage gap, women earn 77 cents for every $1 earned by men, as a group.”  Much of the disparity is due to pay secrecy and occupational segregation. Jackson said, and added that proving equivalent value in jobs is difficult.

 

Cornish said the Equal Pay Act of 1973 was the first blow for equal pay since the 1800s. Until that point, the same jobs were often listed side-by-side with higher pay for men versus women. “Thirty-three percent of jobs had a different pay scale for men than women,” she said.

 

“Pay differentials for physical labor are narrower and job duties are easier to compare. The wage gap for women today is greater than in the past because the workplace has changed so much,” she said.

The Equal Pay Act states that jobs must demand equal effort. Differentials are allowed for seniority, merit or any other rationale other than sex. Complaints filed under the EPA have decreased over time. Of the 1,000 cases filed recently, only 7 percent were upheld. Until the issue of pay secrecy is addressed, not much progress will be made, Cornish said.

 

Dr. Croson acknowledged that despite the fact that discrimination does exist in the workplace, women do have options.

 

“Women don’t negotiate job offers or pay raises, “   she said. “Men are 10 times more likely to negotiate than women. It’s important that women learn to negotiate because the difference in pay over time has a significant impact on retirement savings and career progress.”

 

Women are more likely to negotiate for others rather than themselves, she added. “We need to think about negotiations as if we were entering into a discussion for someone else.”

 

Croson, who recommended two books on women and negotiations, Women Don’t Ask and Getting to Yes, said women should follow some simple steps to beginning a negotiation.

 

  • Make a list of things you want to know. Ask lots of questions about your role, prospects, responsibilities and aspirations.

  • Start and end the conversation with positive statements.

  • Make promises, not threats. Never say you will leave a job in an effort to get a raise. Keep the conversation positive.

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WOMEN’S POLICY FORUM   |      P.O. Box 11246   Fort Worth, Texas 76110    womenspolicyforum@gmail.com