Move in Montpelier to officially ban a policy that spurred housing discrimination

There’s a move in Montpelier to officially ban a policy that spurred housing discrimination. Lawmakers are taking aim at legal clauses on land deeds called restricted covenants. The bill would officially ban a policy that kept people from owning homes and land based on their race or religion. But racial justice advocates say the issue needs more time and discussion. When you buy a house or a property, it comes with a deed. In the 1920s and ‘30s, some deeds had caveats that banned certain groups of people from ever owning or occupying the homes. “It explicitly forbade the home to be sold or in some cases occupied by anyone who was considered nonwhite at that time,” said Mia Watson of the Vermont Housing Finance Agency. Watson says at least two neighborhoods in South Burlington had restrictive covenants. So this week, a bill in front of Vermont lawmakers seeks to right that wrong. House Bill 511 would let landowners release the restrictive covenant from their deed, though historians would still be able to go back and view the land records to see it. “They were in the margins, in the shadows. The stake hadn’t gone through their heart. That’s one of the points of this bill,” Burlington City Attorney Dan Richardson said. The covenants are not causing any discrimination today. They were outlawed in the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Any existing ones on properties are not legally enforceable. The covenants ran parallel to the practice of redlining, where banks refused to finance homes in certain neighborhoods occupied by Black Americans. 

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