Housing Racism: The Diseased Underbelly Of The American Dream

black and white photo of a ruined house
house photo by sj carey is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
A rotten system undermines home ownership.

A new book written by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor surfaces how the American Dream of homeownership has played out for black people.

Early in her career, Taylor worked as a housing advocate. Some of her clients were struggling homeowners. She noticed patterns in their experiences. They were often black and single mothers. Their homes needed expensive repairs for leaky roofs, heating systems that didn’t work, leaky plumbing. They often lost their homes because their incomes weren’t enough to pay for the repairs and the mortgage. Other clients would repeat the experience at the same address.

As a PhD candidate, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor decided to investigate this pattern more deeply. She found that shoddy practices in the real estate and financial industries contributed to a high rate of foreclosures and resale of housing that was substandard to the point of being condemned. These practices contributed to profits for the financial and real estate industries at horrendous cost to the homeowners.  In addition, she was able to identify that public administrators failed to take action when these practices were uncovered.

The results have just been published in Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership.

Taylor, who now teaches history at Princeton University, describes these effects as ‘predatory inclusion’. People who tried to buy houses under this system weren’t poor risks. The system that was constructed around those purchases was rotten.

Read more about the book, together with an interview with the author at Vox: The Sordid History Of Housing Discrimination In America