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“Fun fact abt HOAs,” wrote author and poet Faylita Hicks in a Twitter thread. “They were started in L.A. County around the time the Supreme Court ruled that housing covenants preventing Black families from gaining access to better single-family homes were illegal.
”They literally exist to prevent the upward mobility of Black folx.”
Hicks, posting a series of news articles and context, then went on to dispel the myth that “HOAs today are no longer racist and are merely about uncut lawns, trash cans, parking, and whatnot.”
For Business Insider’s “Inside the Racial Wealth Gap” series, Mariette Williams wrote in September 2020 that HOAs created in the mid-19th century increased in popularity in the 1960s. When white people were looking for a means of legally keeping Black buyers from accessing homes in white neighborhoods, they founded more HOAs. Decades later, Black people are still excluded from many of those communities. About 60% of new-build homes and 80% of new subdivisions are part of homeowners associations, and those neighborhoods on average contain primarily white and Asian residents.
"There is plenty of evidence from historic records and housing policy discussions that anti-Black racism motivated some of the strategies used by homeowner associations, such as deed restrictions and covenants that explicitly discriminated against Black people by compelling other owners to avoid selling to them,” Jonathan Rothwell, author of A Republic of Equals: A Manifesto for a Just Society, told the news site. “HOAs perpetuate racial and economic segregation by blocking fair participation in housing markets, thus denying wealth-generating opportunities and upward mobility for many Black people and lower-income families."
Melchior Julie, a Black homeowner in Simpsonville, South Carolina, faced jail time when he refused to pay $3,600 in attorney fees resulting from a dispute with his HOA regarding a shed in the back of his property. Julien told Greenville News he believed he was targeted and harassed because of his race. “There’s no way of justifying it when they are not enforcing the rules on neighbors who are white,” he said.
Homeowners associations were just one tool in a toolbox of ways white people sought to cap upward mobility for Black people. In Detroit, Teresa Moon, president of the 8 Mile Community Organization and a community resident for 59 years, said she learned in school that a wall she could see from her childhood home was built to keep Black people outside of a neighboring all-white community. She told WBUR the wall was built when a developer seeking to build houses couldn't access the capital he needed because Black people lived near the area he targeted. "Our parents didn't talk about it," Moon said. "I guess it was taboo to say what it was. When I was about 12 or 13, I found out. ... We found out it was a segregation wall. And why it was put up, you know, to separate Black people from white people."
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 made discriminatory housing practices like redlining illegal. The law didn’t fix the underlying problem, though. It just forced racists to use other tactics. In California, Black residents of the noted and affluent Sugar Hill community successfully staved off "racially restrictive covenants" for years, only to have a freeway built through their community, effectively erasing it, NPR reported. "I watched the tractor bulldoze these homes down," Van Nickerson said, later seeing his family home replaced with a traffic lane. Rha, Van’s sister, told NPR her family home was seized through eminent domain. "I remember my father telling me about eminent domain and how there was no option to stop this,” she said. “The valuation for our home was quite low; it was not market value that we were compensated for. And so it was quite an upheaval."
Mark Alston, a real estate broker, told NPR while some argue that "risk-based pricing" is fair, "'fair' is an interesting concept" when it rides the coattails of 350 years of exclusionary zoning laws. "I could[n’t] care less about Black Lives Matter being painted on [a] basketball court," he said. "How about an affirmative program to lower the gap between white and Black homeownership? How about actual public policy that moves the needle, for real? How about a change in employment and pay that narrows the gap, the inequities between white and black pay? How about those types of things that will make a difference for future generations?"
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