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Righting the Wrongs of Racist Covenants

This year, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1474 to create the covenant homeownership account and program to address the history of housing discrimination due to racially restrictive real estate covenants in Washington state.

According to the Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project:

It establishes in its first paragraphs that the state of Washington caused financial harm by authorizing and enforcing racial restrictive covenants through the delegation of authority to counties and courts. Then it targets compensation in the form of down-payment assistance to families that were excluded from equal housing opportunities in the years prior to the 1968 Fair Housing Act…A still-to-be-appointed commission will work out the details but presumably Black, Asian, Indigenous, and Latinx families who meet the other criteria will be eligible for a no-interest down-payment loan. This is because restrictive covenants usually specified “whites only,” thereby excluding everyone else.

A Covenant Homeownership Program Study will be completed by the Washington State Finance Housing Commission to identify through evidence-based documentation the persons that require assistance to reduce racial disparities in homeownership in the state.

Other eligibility requirements will be:

• Have a household income at or below 100% of the Area Median Income (AMI).

• Be a first-time homebuyer.

• Be a Washington state resident who was a resident before the enactment of the Federal Fair Housing Act or was, or would have been, excluded from homeownership in Washington state by a racially restrictive covenant on or before April 1968.

• Be a descendant of the resident outlined above.

For more information:

Covenant Homeownership Account Informational Flyer
KING 5 News: New fee, loans aim to right ‘historic wrong’ of racist covenants in Washington state
WA State Legislature: HB 1474 / SB 5496
Racial Restrictive Covenants Project WA State: