Part one in a series on discrimination and housing in Davis, this article provides an overview of mortgage loan redlining, restrictive covenants, and other discriminatory housing practices in the U.S., with examples from Davis showing the extent of discrimination in housing practices that excluded non-white populations from specific areas.
Image: detail of the deed restrictions for the Sierra Vista Oaks subdivision in Davis (Miller Drive & Ovejas Avenue north of 8th Street) from 1950. [source: Yolo County Clerk-Recorder archives, retrieved by the author]
By Rik Keller
In 1917, the Supreme Court in Buchanan v. Warley ruled municipal racial zoning unconstitutional. In response, private agreements—including restrictive covenants—started to be put in place to continue residential segregation practices: “Racially restrictive covenants refer to contractual agreements that prohibit the purchase, lease, or occupation of a piece of property by a particular group of people.” These were legally-enforceable contracts put onto the deed of the property. They were enforced with the help of neighborhood associations, real estate boards, and other organizations. For example, the National Association of Real Estate Boards (NAREB), started in 1908, promoted the use of racial covenants in new developments.
Typical language in these racially-restrictive covenants included statements such as “…hereafter no part of said property or any portion thereof shall be…occupied by any person not of the Caucasian race…” These covenants became so commonplace that “by 1940, 80% of property in Chicago and Los Angeles carried restrictive covenants barring black families.”