Racism in housing isn’t a historical trend.
It’s a reality.
New York magazine recently ran an excerpt from DW Gibson’s book on gentrification, “The Edge Becomes the Center: The Oral History of Gentrification in the Twenty-First Century.”
In the excerpt, Gibson interviews a New York City landlord about how he goes about renting out the buildings he buys.
The short answer? Bribe the black tenants to move out, then move white people in and double the rent.
Here’s just one of the paragraphs from the interview, which goes from bad to worse:
If there’s a black tenant in the house — in every building we have, I put in white tenants. They want to know if black people are going to be living there. So sometimes we have ten apartments and everything is white, and then all of the sudden one tenant comes in with one black roommate, and they don’t like it. They see black people and get all riled up, they call me: “We’re not paying that much money to have black people live in the building.” If it’s white tenants only, it’s clean. I know it’s a little bit racist but it’s not. They’re the ones that are paying and I have to give them what they want. Or I’m not going to get the tenants and the money is not going to be what it is.
Honestly, the most astonishing thing about this isn’t the landlord’s casual racism, it’s the fact that so many of his white tenants think paying high rent means they have a right to demand housing segregation.
There is no use pretending like this is some random aside in a small, shady corner of the real estate market. It’s not. Redlining, or denying mortgages to people who lived in certain geographic areas, mostly poor and often mostly black, was legal for decades during the early-to-mid 20th century. It created many of the inner-city neighbourhoods that are now being gentrified (and reverse-segregated) in a cruel reversal of geographical wealth.
Even without a legal system for housing segregation, it’s still very much alive and well.