OLYMPIA – Democratic lawmakers seek to address the direct harms caused by racially restrictive real estate covenants. Rep. Jamila Taylor (D-Federal Way) introduced House Bill 1474 to establish a covenant homeownership account and program to provide down payment and closing cost assistance to groups of people identified in a covenant homeownership program study. Participants must also be first-time homebuyers with income limitations and meet other criteria.
Generations of systemic, racist, and discriminatory policies have formed barriers to homeownership for Black, Indigenous, and people of color and other historically marginalized communities in Washington state. Historically, redlining, racially restrictive covenants, mortgage subsidies and incentives, and displacement have been explicitly outlined practices. To date, racially restricted covenants have been identified in more than 40,000 property deeds across the state. Consequently, the target groups still feel the impact of this discrimination today, and it is especially pronounced in Black communities. Homeownership for people of color and other marginalized communities is 19% below that of white households (Dept. Of Commerce, 2022), and the homeownership rate for Black households is even lower.
“The deliberate and harmful barriers preventing Black homeownership impact intergenerational wealth and housing security. Because this racial discrimination was targeted, the solution must also be targeted,” said Rep. Taylor. “To truly right the wrongs of the past, our policies require focused and thoughtful solutions.”
Taylor and Co-Sponsor Rep. Frank Chopp (D-Seattle) have invested considerable time understanding the variety of opinions that stakeholders have, and collaborating on a solution. “We know that systematic and structural changes at all levels of government are the only answer to closing the racial homeownership gap,” said Patience Malaba, Executive Director of the Housing Development Consortium of Seattle-King County. “The Covenant Homeownership Account (CHA) bill is a groundbreaking step towards repairing the harm caused by Washington state and through its passage Washington state will lead the nation and demonstrate its commitment to change”
Addressing the housing crisis is a top priority among lawmakers. House Democrats are introducing a comprehensive package of bipartisan bills focusing on homeownership barriers, supply and demand imbalances, rental gouging, and zoning. “The Covenant Homeownership Account will help many thousands of people to achieve homeownership, a big part of the ‘American Dream,’” said Co-Sponsor Chopp “It will help remedy the well-documented past practices of discrimination in the real estate industry here in Washington state. This is the right thing to do for so many good, positive reasons.”