New Reality Show to Exploit Stereotypes for Suburban Dream Home
Feature Story by civilrights.org staff - 6/28/2005Update: ABC has announced it will not be airing "Welcome to the Neighborhood" at this time.
A new ABC reality TV series has sparked outrage from fair housing advocates, who say the show could give homeowners the idea they can engage in housing discrimination and stereotyping without any consequences.
According to ABC's web site, in "Welcome to the Neighborhood," seven diverse couples will compete to win a beautiful dream home on a "perfect" suburban cul-de-sac in Austin, Texas. Each week of the six-week series, the competing families will participate in a "challenge" given by three neighborhood families who will serve as "judges."
ABC's web site states that "the three neighborhood families who will be judging the competing families all love their quiet, picturesque community and are used to a certain kind of neighbor--one who looks and thinks just like them."
The families who will be choosing their neighbors are white. The competing families include an African American family, a Latino family, an Asian American family, and a white gay couple who has adopted an African American baby boy. ABC's web site describes the other competing families as "a family who blend their Native American and Caucasian heritages with Pagan spirituality; a Caucasian family that looks picture-perfect; and "defying all stereotypes...a Caucasian family...covered in tattoos and are staunch Republicans."
Fair housing advocates say the show violates the "spirit and intent of the federal Fair Housing Act, " which prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.
According to National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) President Shanna Smith, "I can't imagine ABC producing a show where a restaurant owner denies service because of race, religion, color, national origin or sexual orientation. Would Donald Trump fire someone because of their race, color, national origin or religion? Of course not. None of the other TV reality programs cross the line into civil rights violations."
"In America, residents of neighborhoods or homeowners associations do not get to choose their new neighbors based on their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or the fact that they have children," Smith said.
But ABC says that the show's drama will come from how "each competing family ends up taking the neighborhood judges on an emotional journey that opens eye and hearts.
The winning family gets a furnished four-bedroom, three-bathroom house, upgrades and two years' worth of property taxes paid for them--a prize worth nearly $900,000.
"Welcome to the Neighborhood" is scheduled to debut July 10. NFHA is urging ABC and its affiliates not to air the show.