County Hears Story of a Century of Housing Inequity, Vows Action

Bexar County Commissioners will hire a consultant to come up with recommendations on how the County can overcome what Commissioners were told is a century of discrimination which led to Bexar County becoming one of the most economically segregated places in the US, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Urban Studies Professor Dr. Christine Drennan at Trinity University presented the results of her study which demonstrates that San Antonio has never recovered from decades of 'protective covenants' which routinely barred the sale of more upscale homes to African American and Latino families starting in the Jim Crow days of the 1910s and continuing into the 1950s.

She cited a covenant which was attached to the deed of a home that was sold in the Beacon Hill neigborhood in the 1920s.

"It is agreed that any sale or lease of the above premesis or any portion thereof to any Mexican or any person of Negro blood shall immediately cause the title to said property to revert to the grantor."

Drennan said even after restrictive covenants were outlawed in the late 1940s, federal housing policy maintained the discrimination through its policies, later referred to as 'redlining,' where Federal housing inspectors would fan out and inspect homes and provide recommendations to banks on whether to make mortgage loans to the property.

"If a neighborhood was starting to deteriorate and there was any sign of a non-White demographic in the neighborhood or anywhere near it, it was coded yellow," she said.  "That was a sign to the banks to watch out."

She says for decades, that prevented largely minority neighborhoods from getting the investment that they need.

"So the areas that were built for Mexican Americans and African Americans, which were later red lined, is now being denied the investment, even from the private capital markets."

Drennan blasted current City and County housing policies with perpetuating this trend by earmarking tax breaks and tax incentives largely to upscale projects. She cited the rush of both the City and County government to throw tax breaks at a planned downtown condo project where condos will sell for six figures.

Commissioner Tommy Calvert, who is pushing for the study on housing inequity, said the home is the root of most family's wealth, and he said it is no coincidence that the average Anglo family in San Antonio has a net worth of around a half million dollars, mainly the value of their home, while Hispanic and Anglo families average one fifth that.

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