With Black History Month on everyone’s mind this month, I was fortunate to attend a fantastic Fair Housing and Diversity forum in Indian Wells last week at the California Association of Realtors Winter Directors Event.

The forum focused on reparations for African Americans and the California Reparations Task Force. The Reparations Task Force is studying the institution of slavery and its lingering negative effects on living African Americans, including descendants of people enslaved in the United States and on society.

The task force was put together to make recommendations to the California government following its findings.

Led by Chair Kamilah Moore, the task force is rounded out by a fantastic group of senators, lawyers, civil rights leaders, and psychologists.

The task force’s final report, to be released on June 1, focuses on final recommendations, community eligibility, and compensation models (housing, cash, etc.) with evidence to back each.

What are the possible reparations? They can include making amends for the offense or harm done, restitution for stolen land and cash, subsidized health care, legal services, satisfaction (symbolic), and guarantees of non-repetition.

There have been other instances both domestically: Japanese American Internment Camp Survivors, Rosewood Florida; and internationally: post-Nazi Germany, Holocaust survivors, and heirs, South Africa Apartheid, where reparations have been made.

The interim report thesis is focused on 12 specific areas of systemic discrimination.
Racial Terror
Political Disenfranchisement
Housing Segregation
Separate and Unequal education
Racism in Environment and Infrastructure
Pathologizing the Black Family
Control over Creative Cultural and Intellectual Life
Stolen Labor and Hindered Opportunity
Unjust Legal System
Mental and Physical Harm and Neglect
The Wealth Gap

Please use this link to read the full report, executive summary, and preliminary recommendations:

Housing and zoning have played a significant part across these 12 areas since slavery was abolished in 1865. Some of the data found and highlighted by the task force were:

• In 2019, white households owned nine times more assets than black households.
• Federal and California housing homestead acts gave away land, the majority to whites. Today, more than 46 million people are dependents on the land given away.
• The American Housing Act of 1949 helped white Americans buy single-family homes and excluded those of color.
• Courts enforced racial covenants that prevented selling to black homes up until the late 1940s.
• As an example, by 1940, 80% of homes in Los Angeles contained restrictive covenants barring black families.
• Before 2008, banks specifically targeted blacks in those populated areas with “ghetto loans,” subprime and predatory rates.
• From 1949 to 1973, Black Americans were five times more likely to be replaced by eminent domain than white families.
Redlining — The practice of redlining … was born out of the National Housing Act of 1934, where the FHA (Federal Housing Admininstration) commissioned the Home Owners Loan Corporation to create a survey of neighborhoods in 239 cities and rank them by security and desirability.

The survey ranked neighborhoods with a grade rating from A to D and color-coded each grade. An A-rated neighborhood was coded green and deemed the most “desirable,” a D neighborhood was coded red and deemed “least desirable” and therefore a higher loan risk.

This practice mirrored the practice of restrictive land covenants, which made it impossible for a person of color to live in a green zone or get an FHA-backed loan in a red area.

Final proposals around housing are still being worked on, and a priority is to create a new state agency, African American/Freedman Affairs Agency, to continue this work and suggest to the governor to identify past harms and prevent future harms. This also could have a development branch similar to the former CA Redevelopment Agency to facilitate the development of housing.

Also, they are looking for ways not just to give out cash, perhaps in the form of vouchers for housing, healthcare and schooling, and continuing to remove those items or symbols.

About 2.7 million African Americans in California could be eligible. And the task force is looking at ways to accomplish this by more than just simple taxation, which I appreciate. 

The California Association of Realtors released a formal apology this past year for its involvement in these covenants and laws.

As of July 1, anyone who finds language in a property deed that prohibits the sale of that property to someone because of their race can require the county to remove it. These covenants were outlawed in 1948, but advocates say the discrimination they created still exists today.

Kamilah Moore ended with a strong quote: “When it’s in your DNA and you believe something needs to be changed. Then no one can stop you.”

I look forward to continuing to promote diversity in our Santa Barbara community through our Santa Barbara Association of Realtors and what the task force ultimately recommends.

Todd Shea is the 2023 president of the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors (SBAOR). He is a California licensed real estate agent with the Zia Group powered by eXp Realty here in Santa Barbara. He has served on and chaired several committees within the SBAOR and served on its board of directors. Todd can be reached at 805.453.7730 and todd@ziagroup.com or message and follow @toddshearealtor on Instagram.