• Mon. Dec 4th, 2023

    Repealing Racial Restrictions in Property Deeds: A Step Towards Justice

    ByEmma Wolukau-Wanambwa

    Nov 20, 2023
    Repealing Racial Restrictions in Property Deeds: A Step Towards Justice

    Lisa Boccetti and her husband, Bob Williams, were appalled to discover a restrictive covenant in the deed to their 1950s ranch house in Raleigh, North Carolina. The language in the deed explicitly prohibited the sale or occupation of the property by Black individuals. Although the racially discriminatory language has been legally unenforceable for over 50 years, Bocchetti and Williams sought to remove it. Unfortunately, North Carolina lacks a process to do so, leaving them and many others frustrated.

    In a bid to address this issue, two state senators proposed legislation in 2021 that would have allowed homeowners to erase such offensive covenants. However, the bill was ultimately sent to a committee and did not progress any further. Boccetti expressed her frustration, highlighting the fact that without a legislative process in place, property owners are left powerless to remove these discriminatory clauses.

    Historically, racially restrictive covenants were prevalent across the United States and effectively enforced segregation in communities. They not only prevented non-whites from purchasing or occupying land but also led to discriminatory practices by banks. Today, the lingering effects of these covenants continue to hinder minority populations’ access to wealth building and homeownership.

    In recent years, several states have taken steps to repudiate these discriminatory covenants by passing laws that allow for their removal. For example, in 2022, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed a bill requiring antiquated housing restrictions based on race, national origin, or religion to be eliminated from newly-recorded deeds. The law penalizes title companies that fail to remove such language by refusing to accept the deed until the necessary changes have been made.

    These new laws have been hailed as a formal rebuke to segregationist housing policies and the symbolic closing of a dark chapter in American history. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that removing the language from these covenants is just the beginning of a larger conversation. Efforts to rectify the historical injustices caused by these covenants should also focus on addressing the lingering effects and inequalities they have perpetuated.


    1. What are racially restrictive covenants?

    Racially restrictive covenants were clauses included in property deeds that prohibited the sale or occupation of land by individuals of specific racial or ethnic backgrounds. These covenants were prevalent in the early to mid-20th century and contributed to the enforcement of segregation.

    2. How do these covenants affect minority populations today?

    Racially restrictive covenants have had lasting effects on minority populations, particularly in terms of access to wealth building and homeownership. These covenants, along with discriminatory practices by banks and other factors like redlining and blockbusting, have created barriers that continue to hinder minority communities’ economic progress.

    3. What can be done to rectify these historical injustices?

    Legislation is being introduced in several states to remove racially restrictive language from property deeds. Additionally, some states, like Washington, are implementing measures to provide financial assistance to those who were discriminated against by these covenants, allowing them to access homeownership opportunities.

    – “Repealing Racial Restrictions in Property Deeds: A Step Towards Justice” – [Source]