It was hard not to think about the deadlines when California’s new repair task force met last week. The nation’s premier organization will spend the next two years studying slavery and the insidious ways in which America’s original sin continues to resonate with black Californians centuries later.

On Tuesday, the task force explained how slavery gave birth to long-standing systems of housing exclusion, which helped perpetuate the extensive segregation we see today, where avant-garde white neighborhoods amass. wealth from property taxes while black and brown neighborhoods exist as food deserts with high death rates. and underfunded public schools.

The Californian landscape was shaped by whites who had the money to buy land and the political power to keep the American dream. Housing discrimination has been officially illegal across the country since the Fair Housing Act 1968, but its victims continue to be born today. The same goes for overtly racist policies of the past that are no longer on the books, like urban renewal, redlining and blockbusting. Even if knocked down, knocked down or torn apart, these policies continue to shape the housing landscape.

The Reparations Task Force is one in a series of credible attempts at state and local levels to right the enduring legacy of this history. But new laws and initiatives take time to bear fruit. Meanwhile, black Californians seek the light under the long shadow of systemic racism.

Or, as Rucker C. Johnson, professor at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, put it Tuesday: Housing discrimination “often recycles its way into the next generation.”

According to Stephen Menendian, a researcher at UC Berkeley, black households have an average net worth of $ 24,000, compared to $ 188,000 for white families, according to 2019 data from the Federal Reserve.

This disparity explains why only 19% of us could afford an average-priced single-family home in the state last year, according to data from the California Association of Realtors. Lack of economic strength is the reason eight Bay Area counties have continued to lose black residents over the past decade, according to data from the US Census Bureau.

Today, black Californians who buy or inherit a home are hit by old and new property tax measures.

Approved by voters in 1978, Proposition 13 capped property tax rates at no more than 1% of the purchase price, benefiting homeowners when an even larger percentage of them were white. Over the next 40 years, he exacerbated housing inequalities by making it harder for blacks and browns to enter the real estate market. It is still in place today.

There is also Proposition 19. Approved by voters in November 2020, the initiative makes the transmission of housing more expensive. If the property is not the primary residence of the new owner, it should be revalued to market value. Sometimes that means black people have to abandon a house their grandparents lived in just because they couldn’t afford to keep it, making it harder to build generational wealth.

While California voters have favored existing owners over future owners, lawmakers and local officials are experimenting with ways to hack entrenched inequalities.

Governor Gavin Newsom last month approved a handful of measures to tackle discrimination in the housing market. After an outcry from black homeowners for being criticized by appraisers throughout the pandemic, Newsom signed SB263, which requires aspiring realtors to be made aware of implicit biases before receiving their real estate license.

Newsom also signed the AB1304, which has punitive elements for cities that do not build enough housing to keep up with the region’s population growth. The legislation also obliges cities and counties to fight racial segregation in their neighborhoods.

Locally, cities are exploring direct monetary payments – reparations, in essence – to help historically marginalized groups afford to live in the region. This includes payment for housing. Over the past two years, Oakland, San Francisco, and Marin County have launched Universal Basic Income pilot programs offering specific groups $ 500 to $ 1,000 per month.

The California Reparations Task Force needs to follow the lead of some of these programs and focus on building generational wealth and closing existing gaps. Repairs are not just about making payments or giving money. They must aim to right the historical wrongs and the repercussions that these sins continue to have on all levels of society. The task force has time to find solutions that create lasting results rather than responding with ideas that leave entrenched problems intact.

From the end of movable slavery to Jim Crow and single-family zoning, white America has had about 100 years to accumulate property, wealth, and influence. To begin to balance the scales, we need efforts that go from the bottom up and from the top down. Maybe they will eventually find a way to meet in the difficult midst.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Justin Phillips appears on Sundays. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @JustMrPhillips



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