Undeniable – Addressing the systemic racism behind U.S. housing. Vote “Yes” for equity.

Event and an action!

The Event: Today, at 6:30, you can participate in a free webinar regarding Richard Rothstein’s book – ”The Color Of Law – A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (6:30 pm PDT) Sign up here – www.rebrand.ly/colorlaw

Rothstein, who is an engaging lecturer, documents how American governments in the twentieth century deliberately imposed residential racial segregation on metropolitan areas nationwide. His book offers “the most forceful argument ever published on how federal, state, and local governments gave rise to and reinforced neighborhood segregation.” If you can’t make this event, we’ve included two great video lectures to watch at the bottom.

Action: Democrats want to do something about housing inequity. But what?

While the GOP are passing anti-critical race theorymemory” laws across the country, to prevent the teaching about the unpleasant historical truths of redlining, restrictive covenants and voter-approved horrors like CA’s Prop. 14 in 1964, Democrats are trying to address the immense damage caused by government-sponsored segregation. There are competing bills. We like this one.

Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I understand that there are competing bills to provide assistance for first-time homeowners. I want Rep./Sen. [___] to support Rep. Waters and Senator Warnock’s Downpayment Toward Equity Act of 2021, as it most directly addresses the multigenerational inequities affecting access to homeownership due to the still active effects of generations of government-sponsored redlining.

Contact:

  • Rep. Julia Brownley (CA-26): email, DC (202) 225-5811, Oxnard (805) 379-1779, T.O. (805) 379-1779
  • or Rep. Salud Carbajal (CA-24): email. DC (202) 225-3601, SB (805) 730-1710 SLO (805) 546-8348
  • Senator Feinstein: email, DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
  • and Senator Padilla: email, DC (202) 224-3553, LA (310) 231-4494, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 981-9369, SD (619) 239-3884
  • Who is my representative/senator?: https://whoismyrepresentative.com

What are the two proposals?

Michael Harriot of the Root describes them in his great article. Here is an excerpt.

The first plan is the Decent Affordable Safe Housing (DASH) For All Act introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Wyden’s plan would create a refundable $15,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers to use toward the down payment on a home. The other bill comes from Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) His Downpayment Toward Equity Act of 2021, would create a new program that offers up to $25,000 to first-generation homebuyers.

Both sound like good plans, but Wyden’s DASH Act would actually increase housing inequality, while Warnock’s plan would help reduce racial housing disparities.

…It’s because Wyden’s plan is one of those “race-neutral” ideas we talked about earlier, while Warnock’s bill actually addresses racial housing disparities, as Politico reports:

One of the thorniest parts of the debate is whether all first-time homebuyers should be eligible for government aid or if it should be further targeted at first-generation buyers, whose parents do not own a home.

Wyden’s proposed $15,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers aligns with an important plank of the housing plan that Biden touted on the campaign trail. But Wyden is facing opposition from affordable housing advocates who say it could push up home prices and fail to benefit people who truly can’t afford a down payment. They say relying on a tax credit would also be less effective than offering direct payments to homebuyers, as proposed by Waters and Warnock.

“Those who really need the help will have a hard time buying a home without having that help at the time of closing, but the IRS is ill-suited to work with lenders and borrowers quickly enough to make that happen through a tax credit,” said Jim Parrott, former economic adviser to the Obama White House. “So this tax credit is likely to help only those who already could have put down the needed down payment buy a more expensive house, not expand access to homeownership.”

Notice that the DASH Act’s summary specifically mentions “first-time homebuyers.” The Downpayment Toward Equity Act of 2021is geared toward first-generation homebuyers.

There is a subtle difference between the two. 

A “first-time homeowner” could be the child of a rich parent who is purchasing their first property. But a first-generation homeowner, as described in the bill, is someone whose “living parents or guardians have not owned a home, and whose spouse, domestic partner, and each member of the household” has not owned a home.

… three out of four white householders own a house… So even if they are first-time homebuyers, most white people are not first-generation homebuyers because, statistically, their parents probably owned a home. And, remember, home ownership is the greatest wealth-builder that capitalism can offer. 

Meanwhile, more than 55 percent of Black potential homebuyers are both first-generation and first-time prospects. 

That’s why Wyden’s DASH Act is about equality and Warnock’s plan is about equity.

More.

The GOP is fighting to muzzle, ban and discredit any mention of critical race theory, a body of legal scholarship and an academic movement of US civil-rights scholars and activists who seek to critically examine the intersection of race and US law. Rothstein’s book is a big old smack on their foreheads.

Despite the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the practice of “redlining” – the racially discriminatory policies of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) against Blacks borrowers, has caused economic damage for generations of their families and communities. The results of denying homeownership and its associated intergenerational wealth can be easily charted. According to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition and the Census Bureau, the current 30-point difference between Black and white homeownership is larger than it was in the 1950s and 1960s—when it was legal for financial institutions to discriminate on the basis of race.

Redlining was one part of the equation of discrimination. There were also restrictive convenant language in deeds until the 1948 Shelley v. Kramer decision, the Supreme Court ruled restrictive covenants in real estate unenforceable.

In 1964, California voters passed Proposition 14, in an effort to nullify the Rumford Fair Housing Act, a law passed in 1963 to prevent racial discrimination. Proposition 14, an initiative ballot proposition, amended the California state constitution to allow property sellers, landlords and their agents to openly discriminate on ethnic grounds when selling or letting accommodations, as they had been permitted to before 1963. The proposition became law after receiving majorities in every county and support from 65% of voters.

Ventura County voters passed the proposition 63,964 to 32,983

In 1966, the California Supreme Court in a 5-2 split decision declared Proposition 14 unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution (Fourteenth Amendment). The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that decision in 1967 in Reitman v. Mulkey.

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