UPDATE: Is my home racist?

Bio buddhist ClarkEdward Alan Clark , Biobuddhist


Jolt axth2t

PUBLICOIA: Josh Kelety: Read an excellent summary of the arguments supporting the claim that Seattle is a racially sgregated city .. by intent.  The bulk of the argument comes from a study at the University of Washington in 2006 called the “Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project.” The study led by Professor James Gregory claims that even though Seattle did not have de jure segregation, local covenants and a focus on single family housing achieved the same effect.

Page 25 of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray‘s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda report cites the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project’s research on racially restrictive covenants as the basis for its claim that “Seattle’s zoning has roots in racial and class exclusion and remains among the largest obstacles to realizing the City’s goals for equity and affordability.” This one sentence has in turn sparked a public debate in Seattle about whether single family zoning is inherently racist.

Here is the statement of the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project on this matter:

Racially restrictive covenants placed in property deeds applied to housing rentals and home ownership alike. So did realtors’ racist practices. So did bankers’ redlining practices. They were not specific to single family zoned spaces– they covered nearly all residential housing in the region.

Seattle Apartheid

Click for a different take.

Similarly, movements for fair housing in Seattle sought to criminalize racial discrimination in the selling or renting of property– they did not attack single family zoning per se. Often some of the leading advocates for housing desegregation were people seeking to purchase homes. Many hoped that desegregation of the housing market would reduce the gouging that people of color were subject to in rental housing in racially segregated neighborhoods. According to Quintard Taylor’s history, Forging of a Black Community, Seattle’s Central District had some of the highest black home ownership rates of any city in the in the country before the 1980s.

Racism continues to be an issue in housing markets, but it is not restricted to neighborhoods zoned for single family homes. Some defenses of single-family zoning and opposition to rental property construction and public transit are racist in addition to classist. At the same time, as the Seattle Office of Civil Rights demonstrated, some developers of high-end rental properties praised as “transit-oriented development” have been systematically engaging in racist practices in their rental application processes. Sensationalizing all single family zoning as inherently racist is unhelpful for understanding the role of racism in housing markets, past or present.