On the 50th anniversary of America’s Fair Housing Act, Baptists noted progress in eliminating race-based housing discrimination while also citing a need for further improvement.
Economist and ethicist Craig Mitchell told Baptist Press the volume of housing discrimination today isn’t “anywhere near” what it was “50 years ago or 30 years ago” thanks in part to the Fair Housing Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on April 11, 1968.
The bill outlawed discrimination in rental, sale and financing of housing based on race, religion and national origin.
Yet housing challenges remain. At the MLK50 conference cosponsored by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Chicago pastor Charlie Dates said a failure to combat housing discrimination is among black Christians’ frustrations “with our white evangelical brothers and sisters.”
“We want you to tell your city fathers” the discriminatory housing practices of “contract leasing, redlining and neighborhood improvement laws — intended to keep us living in segregated quarters — [were] offensive to God and that you wouldn’t stand for [them], by the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Dates, pastor of Chicago’s Progressive Baptist Church, said in an April 3 address.
Some of the practices he referenced were among those outlawed by the Fair Housing Act.
Contract leasing was a practice by which lenders would “pretend” to sell a home to African Americans but actually lease it, Dates said in an interview with BP. Redlining referenced some financial institutions’ practice of refusing to grant loans for housing in minority neighborhoods. Neighborhood improvement laws have helped raise property values in urban neighborhoods, but at times they have driven prices too high for poor, minority residents to afford.
Dates said members of the church he pastors still experience forms of housing discrimination.
For example, low property values in many minority neighborhoods result in less property tax revenue and, in turn, less money for local public schools than is available in affluent neighborhoods, Dates said. Mortgage insurance also is more expensive in some minority neighborhoods, he said, and the comparatively lower wages of educated black workers may prevent them from moving into the same neighborhoods as their white peers.
According to an April 11 NPR report, the Fair Housing Act “has only been selectively enforced,” and “a lot of the same neighborhoods in big cities that were redlined in the 1930s and 1940s have been locked out of the economy. They don’t benefit during boom times, and they’re devastated during downturns.”
Dates, a speaker at this year’s Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference, said, “It’s primarily the black church that is arguing against this” type of housing discrimination. In some instances, white churches have left racially transitioning neighborhoods “rather than living in those neighborhoods [and] protesting.”
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Source: Baptist Press