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Anchorage Confronts History of Housing Discrimination

Urban growth in Anchorage was tied to restrictive covenants forbidding the sale of property to minorities.
March 12, 2020, 11am PDT | urbanguy
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Alaska
Russ Heinl

Zachariah Hughes, a reporter with Alaska Public Media digs into a story that reveals that Anchorage, Alaska has thousands of parcels with deed restrictions against minority home ownership decades after the Civil Rights Act of 1965.

A local Anchorage historian investigated "hundreds of deeds that included discriminatory covenants barring the sale of homes to anyone who wasn’t white. He found them in neighborhoods all over town." The local governing body in Anchorage is developing a plan for dealing with those covenants.

Richard Watts is an African American who moved with his family to Anchorage when he was three years old in 1949. Watts is quoted in the article: "One thing about discrimination in Anchorage, Alaska, versus discrimination in the Lower 48: In the Lower 48, it was in your face. In Anchorage, Alaska, it was hidden."

"Watts said there were a number of ways this played out. Obtaining a bank loan ranged from difficult to impossible. Newspaper ads for rentals would often explicitly say “whites only.” Real estate brokers always seemed to have found a tenant just before you inquired about a place, Watts said.

“They wouldn’t say, ‘We don’t rent to blacks or Natives.’ They’d say, ‘We’ve already rented it,’” he recalled. “Everybody knew what was going on. That’s just the way it was.”

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