Press Release: The Building and Realty Institute (BRI) and Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors (HGAR) Urge Legislators to Confront Legacy of Housing Discrimination by Eliminating Restrictive Covenants
(ARMONK, N.Y.) Members of the Building and Realty Institute (BRI) and Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors (HGAR) joined together to pen a letter to members of the New York Senate representing Westchester County and the Hudson Valley, urging them to confront the region’s legacy of deliberate housing segregation by eliminating discriminatory restrictive covenants that continue to exist in deeds throughout the state.
Specifically, the real estate trade organizations voiced their staunch support for the bill, A. 6152A (Steck) / S. 4740A (Sanders). The bill, which recently passed through the New York State Assembly, would require the elimination of any illegal restrictive covenants prior to the sale of real estate which would specifically perpetuate housing discrimination by forbidding sales based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, familial status, marital status, disability, national origin, source of income, or ancestry.
“It is inconceivable that today’s homeowners would agree with the values and the intentions of this binding legal language. But it is also clear that absent strong motivation, it is easier to ignore the past than come to terms with and remedy past wrongs,” the BRI and HGAR wrote in their letter to the Senators.
As with so many suburban and urban areas throughout the United States, restrictive covenants that perpetuate housing discrimination, particularly those that explicitly forbid sales of the property to buyers who are not “of the White or Caucasian race,” are still to be found in deeds throughout Westchester County and the communities of New York State.
These covenants played a deliberate role in enforcing racial and other segregation in housing, particularly in suburban communities, throughout the 20th century. But despite being illegal and declared unenforceable by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1940s, many of these covenants continued to be written into housing deeds for decades after the Supreme Court decision as both an implicit and explicit statement of values as to who was welcome within a community and who was not.
“It is important for those of us working in real estate, housing, and land use today to recognize the role that discrimination and prejudice played not just in the attitudes of previous generations of those who built, owned, or facilitated the sale of homes and property, but in the laws and the systems they set up,” the letter stated.
“We believe it is time for New York to join Maryland, Florida, Virginia, and New Jersey in requiring the removal of this poison from our laws and our homes.”
The Building and Realty Institute of Westchester and the Mid-Hudson Region (BRI), based in Armonk, has more than 1,800 members in fourteen counties of New York State, including home builders, commercial builders, renovators, property managing agents, co-op and condo boards, and owners of multifamily apartment buildings in many communities, as well as suppliers and service providers with a special focus on real estate. The BRI’s mission is to improve the relationships among builders and real estate business owners to the mutual advantage of the industry. For additional information, please visit https://www.buildersinstitute.org.