Racial covenants

Two 2021 articles about racial covenants and attempts to remove them.

Background: In many places across the US, many many homes still have racial covenants, specifying that (for example) they can be sold only to white people.

Those covenants are unenforceable, and have been since 1948. But they’re still listed on deeds and CC&Rs, and it costs a lot of time and money to remove or change them.

A few states have passed laws that make it easier and cheaper to remove racial covenants, but not many.

This NPR article talks about the history of racial covenants, how they spread across the US, and some recent developments in trying to get them removed.

Content warning for descriptions of various forms of racism.

One of the many harms that racial covenants have caused is that they helped prevent generational wealth from accruing.

For example, in Ladera, California (near Stanford University), the first homes-to-be-built were sold in the 1940s, for $10,000 each (about $170k in 2023 dollars). Four of the families who bought lots there weren’t white. In 1950, the land was sold “to a developer with the total ban on non-white occupancy,” which forced those four families to sell their lots. Today, homes in Ladera sell for about $3 million. (I may have a couple of details wrong here; apologies if so.)

More about Ladera, and attempts to remove the racial covenants there, in this San Francisco Chronicle article.

Additional content warning for mentions of George Floyd’s murder.

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