Housing Segregation in America: A History

Housing Segregation in America: A History


Housing Segregation in America: A History by Marc Dones of the Center for Social Innovation The first thing that I want to talk about is from 1917-1948, and these were racially restrictive covenants. And this was a housing practice where, I could put in the deed of my house, “No black people ever.” Once you look at the deed, right? – The deed is a living document of this sort of bricks and mortar, right? And if you go back far enough you can find in that deed – No black people. The next thing I want to talk about is the Federal Housing Authority, and the practice of red lining. So, the Federal Housing Authority came into being in 1934 in response to a massing housing crisis, and what the Federal Housing Authority came in to being to do is create the modern mortgage system. So, all of the stuff we think about in terms of let’s get a credit score, let’s get you know – this mortgage is backed by somebody? It’s backed by the Federal Housing Authority, The Federal Housing Authority had in practice until 1968, something called red lining. And red lining was this idea that you could decide which neighborhoods were worth having – were worth backing mortgages in, right? And, this is probably a huge shock to you, but the neighborhoods that they decided they didn’t want to back mortgages in, were neighborhoods with black people. And, if there were black folks and white folks, there was a great term they used for this called, “dis-harmonious racial mixing.” And, so they would and you can see it, right? So, you will see inside the red-lining documents, right? So, the neighborhoods that are zoned red are ranked D, are neighborhoods that they just would not back a mortgage in, right? And those are neighborhoods predominantly of color, and then you have neighborhoods ranked C, and those neighborhoods have dis-harmonious racial mixing. And, what’s fascinating is this was so entrenched in their policy that an enterprising young white person in Detroit, Michigan, who could not get a mortgage year after year, because of all this dis-harmonious mixing, built a wall! And the Federal Housing Authority said, “Good enough,” and backed the mortgages of the white folks on the one side of that wall. That’s how intense this practice was. In 1948, we have the end racial covenants, right? They become unenforceable. And what this means is there was a Supreme Court case that guided the State requirement to back these covenants, right? So, it used to be that you could, if someone sold a house on your street to a black person, you could go to the State and say, “But they had a covenant,” and the Supreme Court said that is not anybody’s responsibility, right? That is not the State’s responsibility to enforce that. However, the lens that they used to do that breakdown was one that left it up to the community to police it. So, this is the birth of a really dangerous period for black folks, right? Where we start to see the rampant escalation of burning crosses on people’s lawns, because it was no longer the State’s responsibility to enforce this, it was the community’s responsibility, and nobody was gonna get in the way of that. So, then we have something magical, it was the Federal Fair Housing Act. It was great. It fixed all the problems, except it did not. So, after that, right? We have the disparate impact of local land use regulations. So, this has to do with, and this is a problem that we can see inside our own communities, right? If you look at most major cities in America, at a time when people are trying to move to these cities for jobs there has been a housing contraction. So, for example in San Francisco, right? For every ten jobs that are online, one unit of housing become available. That’s this disparate impact, right? And instead, what we have is like a new GAP. So, and then we also have housing discrimination, right? And when I say housing discrimination, what I’m talking about is the real and persistent impact of people’s individual discriminatory practices. So, in the sense that if I go – so, I have a strapping tall boyfriend who is very white, and so if I ever decide to buy a house, he will do all that, because he will be shown more houses and be given better rates, and be given better closing deals. And I will walk in at the very end like, “What’s up!?” Because I’m not trying to get involved with that, right? So, that’s housing discrimination, and so when you talk about the Federal Fair Housing Act, I think it’s really important that we understand, that it put on the books a lot of capability that we don’t necessarily use. So, it is this central thing, red lining, right? That is what we point to, when we talk about the current landscape of racially discriminatory housing in America, right? It is this that created our ghettos, it’s red lining that created our ongoing areas of divestment. So, when we talk about the areas, right where, you’re like, you know why can’t these blacks get it together. Black folks have only had access to mortgages since around 1970, right? So, and when you look at just that fact alone there cannot be an expectation or an assumption that there would be that much of a change in forty years.

One thought on “Housing Segregation in America: A History

  1. I am undergoing this abomination right now. Fire Department personnel stalk me every time I leave my house and have hired men to sit on top of my house manipulate the power grid and obliterate my body throughout the evening even after I hired a realtor to sell the house. This on-going criminal action is some sort of squatting exercise to claim the house if they are able to force me to abandon the house. Please list agencies other than NAACP. I know what people to contact but are there other agencies, perhaps private, that can intervene. The fire department is capable of attacking through clandestine and subterfuge means anyone who dares get in their way of acquisition.

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