The Englewood Review of Books
Best Books of 2019
So in the ’70s redlining was abandoned and federal policy focused on getting African Americans into homes. On the surface, that seems like a great idea. What went wrong?
This is where the role of the private sector becomes important. People can have a larger discussion about the utility of public-private partnerships, but there is something particular to the real estate industry that was deeply problematic in terms of this public-private relationship.
The real estate industry had been instrumental, both in its real estate brokerage arm and its mortgage banking arm, in segregating cities. The federal government didn’t invent housing segregation in the 1930s; the real estate industry had been doing it for a long time. Indeed, the National Association of Real Estate Boards had already created a rule in 1924 saying that any broker who introduces someone of the opposite race into a neighborhood that is racially homogenous would lose their license.
So organizing a housing program aimed at solving the urban housing crisis made no sense because it meant that these programs would adopt the same kind of segregating impulses that were at the heart of real estate, unless you could have a commitment from the federal government to aggressively enforce its own rules regarding housing discrimination.
But that doesn’t happen. And there was no evidence that it would happen, since the federal government would never take that role in enforcing anti-discrimination laws seriously because it had failed to do so thus far.
The ’64 Civil Rights Act had already banned the use of racial discrimination in housing that was financed by the federal government, but it was mostly ignored. John F. Kennedy signed an executive order in 1962 banning racial discrimination in federally financed housing that was new housing. But didn’t apply to housing that already existed, which was a huge dodge.
So there’s already a pattern of avoiding any kind of confrontation with the real estate industry on questions of race. And so when this program is eventually implemented, it is swallowed up by the same racist impulses driving the real estate industry. And the consequences were devastating for African Americans.
– from a Vox.com interview with Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
[ READ the full interview ]
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