Oregon Legislators Address Housing Discrimination

Two bills in short legislative session aim to address racial disparities in housing

Two bills introduced in the Oregon legislative session address racial covenants and examine inequalities in home ownership.

House Bill 4010 would create a task force to examine home lending practices and barriers that prevent people of color from owning homes. If passed, the task force will use data in home ownership disparities to recommend modifications to lending practices and identify solutions and legislation to bolster new legislation, according to the bill’s summary.

House Bill 4134, sponsored by Eugene Rep. Julie Fahey, will provide an expedited legal process for a homeowner to remove the language of racist covenants from the deed of their own home.

Fahey says the bill helps continue the conversation about Oregon’s history of racist housing practices.

“Covenants say things like ‘only people of the Caucasian race may live in the home,’” Fahey says. These types of covenants were “written into the deeds of the home,” she adds.

Fahey’s bill helps homeowners remove language from their deeds that prohibit “the use of the real property by any person or group of persons by reason of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or disability,” according to HB 4134.

Fahey, also a sponsor of HB 4010, says past practices like “redlining — when banks wouldn’t loan to people in particular neighborhoods,” still have impacts on homeownership.

“Those types of discrimination practices continue to have impacts today,” Fahey says. People have been “systematically lapped out, and we do see disparities in home ownership now and that’s part of reason,” she adds.

Fahey says the purpose of HB 4010 is to “continue the conversation” about what can be done to “remedy those disparities.”

The Fair Housing Council of Oregon attended hearings on both bills, Fahey says. The nonprofit is a “civil rights organization” that uses outreach to educate and promote enforcement of fair housing laws. “Oregon’s fair housing laws include the following protected classes: marital status, legal sources of income, and sexual orientation and gender identity,” according to the nonprofit’s website.

The House Committee On Human Services and Housing recommended the bill be passed with an 8-1 vote and found that it had no financial impact. The “no” vote came from Rep. Mike Nearman, a Republican from Independence.

In March 2017, Nearman quoted data from The Federation for American Immigration Reform, designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, while pushing for anti-sanctuary legislation. He also referred to migrants as “illegal aliens.”

When asked about the designation at the time, Nearman replied, “I don’t put much stock in the Southern Poverty Law Center. The bar to being designated as a hate group is pretty low for them. I stand by my data.”

HB 4010 was referred Feb. 12 to the Ways and Means Committee. Three readings have been held on HB 4134, and a public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 20.

“The good part is educating people, the Legislature and the general public about our past history of racism” and fixing that history by “coming up with a set of policy solutions,” Fahey says.

This story has been updated.

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