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Some Texas Property Deeds Contain Racist And Discriminatory Language. A Bipartisan Bill Could Change That.

A row of houses of different colors
Jon Shapley for KUT

From Texas Standard:

One obvious and painful reminder of racial discrimination baked into the law and enforcement of it can be found in deeds across Texas. Some documents prepared decades ago include covenants that were recorded against a property's title that prohibited future owners from selling, renting or allowing the property to be used by people of certain races or ethnicities.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1948 that courts could not enforce these covenants, and they became illegal with the 1968 Fair Housing Act. But, more than 50 years later, untold numbers of property deeds in Texas retain the racist and discriminatory language.

This is not the first time Texas lawmakers have introduced a bill to remove such language from property documents. But, in this 87th legislative session, Senate Bill 30 looks to have a good chance of making it into law.

Texas Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, is listed as the first author of Senate Bill 30, alongside the rest of his Senate colleagues. Senators unanimously passed the bill out of committee and its low bill number shows it is a priority for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican.

“He asked me to carry the bill,” West said. “And so I'm the author of the bill. But I was able also to get the other members of the Senate to join.”

West pushes back on criticism that this bill is simply symbolic.

“I think housing discrimination is still an issue in this country,” West said. “And to the poor, unsuspecting person who wants to get a house that may or may not know that you cannot discriminate, and they see that language and they think that that language is still valid language in this country, but obviously it's not… And it needs to be stricken from the record, if you will, of this country.”

He says though this measure is long overdue, he believes it is better to address the issue of discriminatory language in real estate documents now, rather than later. He says this is also true for issues including police reform and other aspects of fair housing.

“I have other the bills that would say that you cannot discriminate against someone because of the source of their income. And so there's still a lot of battles out there that we need to fight,” West said.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.