OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) – In 2022, many would-be home buyers are being pushed off the market due to soaring prices, but did you know that for decades Utahns could be denied homes because of their race? ?
Over the past year, researchers at Weber State University have begun digging into the legacy of housing discrimination in Ogden and Weber County. They found documents (CCR) who used direct and discriminatory language to keep neighborhoods segregated. The Equal Housing Act of 1968 prohibited this practice. Nevertheless, the researchers believe that these decades-old pacts may still influence the composition of neighborhoods today.
A CCR is a document that is still used today. It represents covenants, conditions and restrictions. These documents outline different regulations for subdivision, such as maximum house heights, minimum square footage, square footage per house, and many other conditions and stipulations.
Jenny Gnagey is an adjunct professor of economics at Weber State University. About a year ago, Gnagey applied for a grant that would allow a team of researchers (composed of other students and faculty) to research the history of housing discrimination in Weber County, particular to Ogden. The research will continue over the next few years and is already producing results.
Currently, researchers have found CCRs in a handful of neighborhoods in the town of Ogden spanning three decades (1930s, 1940s, 1950s) that prevented anyone other than “Caucasians” from buying homes. These are often called race pacts.
“It was something that was acceptable at the time,” former WSU student and research assistant Marisa Arreguin told ABC4. In the last eight months of his college career, Arreguin spent hundreds of hours at the Weber County Assessor’s Office reviewing decades-old housing contracts. She found numerous CCRs used to keep people of color out of specific neighborhoods in Ogden (primarily those east of Harrison Blvd.).
Arreguin grew up in Ogden. Her family has lived in the city for generations, and the documents they uncovered could have been used to stop her own grandparents from buying their dream home.
“You will still see the divisions today,” she said. “Growing up in Ogden, it was kind of a widely shared thing that the houses above Harrison Blvd. were of a certain class and the houses below were not. This widely shared belief may have its roots in a past steeped in discriminatory practices.
Until the Fair Housing Act of 1968, racial discrimination in housing was legal in the United States. The researchers explained that the CCRs they found in Ogden prove that segregation existed outside of Jim Crow South. It also existed in Utah.
Around the same time, banks used a process called redlining when issuing mortgages. Gnagey explained the importance of redlining. Redlining is the practice of denying someone a mortgage or insurance because they live in an area considered to be of low financial risk. It was often used against neighborhoods with a large minority population and to keep minorities to own property. Race covenants are found on property documents and have been used to prevent owners from selling their property to anyone “other than the Caucasian race”.
“These two tools combined have effectively blocked families of color from homeownership, especially black people,” Gnagey added. While anyone can buy a house regardless of race today, both Gnagey and Arreguin said the racial division of city neighborhoods still strongly reflects the racial pacts of separation and red lines created there. decades old.
The effects of these two tools can still be felt today. Gnagey explained: “The average homeownership rate in Ogden is around 55%. The white homeownership rate in Ogden is about 60% and the black homeownership rate in Ogden is about 20%. These rates are based on a US Census Bureau survey.
Gnagey emphasized that correlation does not mean causation. However, she added, “It is likely that these types of policies have contributed to and had some influence on this current disparity, among other factors.”
Why is it important to know this? The researchers say there are two big reasons: the social consequences; “That socialization shapes all those people who live under those certain lines that were built at the time,” Arreguin explained. And the economic consequences; “Creating wealth through homeownership is the primary way the American middle class creates wealth,” Gnagey said. “That (not being able to buy a house) has a ripple effect on future generations due to intergenerational transfer of wealth.”