The History of Racial Zoning and Housing Discrimination in the US

More than a century of discriminatory housing policy divided cities and contributed to the racial wealth gap and other social and economic inequities.

1 minute read

February 29, 2024, 10:00 AM PST

By Mary Hammon @marykhammon


Black-and-white photo of street with old black model T and brick building on the corner.

The Lewis Place neighborhood in St. Louis, a primarily white neighborhood in 1910 when this photo was taken, adopted a restrictive racial covenant in 1928 that primarily targeted Black Americans. | Missouri History Museum / Wikimedia Commons

Attorney George Fatheree III has written an excellent article on the history of racial zoning for Urban Land magazine. It begins in 1910, when Baltimore passed the first racial zoning ordinance in the U.S., making it illegal for Black Americans to live in white neighborhoods (and vice versa), which prompted other cities across the country to follow suit. From there the article covers how patterns of segregation formed and evolved under racially restrictive covenants and municipal zoning — and the related court case rulings — throughout the decades.

The “devastating effects … on those who have been kept out of historically white communities,” including higher poverty rates, lower home values and incomes, and lower home ownership rates, persist to this day, Fatheree writes, citing research from the Other & Belonging Institute. Featheree closes his article by discussing steps that need to be taken to reverse the effects of this discrimination and the role federal, state, and local governments should play in righting the wrongs they caused.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024 in Urban Land Magazine

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