Posted on May 10, 2023

State Seeks to Repair Harm Caused by Racially Restrictive Real Estate Covenants

Melissa Santos, Axios, May 8, 2023

Washington state is setting aside money to help people who were hurt by racially restrictive real estate covenants — documents that were used to enforce segregation in the early- to mid-20th century.

Driving the news: Gov. Jay Inslee signed a measure into law Monday that will create a downpayment assistance program for people affected by the racist covenants, which were often used to ban property from being sold or rented to someone who wasn’t white. Descendants of those discriminated against would also qualify under the law.


{snip} Washington’s new law will impose a $100 fee on certain recorded documents to raise money for the homeownership assistance program.

  • The program will provide assistance with down payments and closing costs to people who lived in Washington state before the Fair Housing Act was enacted on April 11, 1968, and who would have been affected by racially restrictive real estate covenants.


{snip} State Rep. Jamila Taylor (D-Federal Way), the sponsor of the new law, said at a bill signing ceremony Monday that while Washington was leading the nation in providing a form of statewide reparations, “400 years of systemic oppression against Black people and other marginalized people in this community cannot be undone in one piece of legislation.”


Flashback: In Washington’s Legislature, some lawmakers expressed concern that the state is making a financial commitment with no clear end in sight.

  • “Because the bill says ‘and their descendants,’ it could go on for hundreds of years,” said state Sen. Phil Fortunato (R-Auburn) on the state Senate floor last month.