The California Association of Realtors, or CAR, formally apologized for historically supporting exclusionary housing practices, including redlining and the overturning of California’s first fair housing law.
CAR condemns these past initiatives and now works towards addressing various forms of discriminatory housing policies, according to a CAR press release. Darrell Owens, a housing activist at East Bay for Everyone, noted that CAR’s history of prejudicial initiatives has had a longstanding impact on Berkeley communities.
“California Realtors from the very beginning in particular targeted Berkeley, throughout the 1940s and 1950s deed-restricting Berkeley houses to ‘white-only’ throughout the city,” Owens said in an email.
Despite CAR’s role in these discriminatory practices, the organization said it now sponsors and supports legislative initiatives to fight against limitations on affordable housing that have disproportionately impacted communities of color and other historically excluded communities.
According to the press release, one of these initiatives involves co-sponsoring a bill that would overturn Article 34, a law that allegedly makes it more difficult for the state to build affordable housing.
“We have continued to unpack our difficult and sometimes obscure history of opposing fair housing laws, promoting segregation and racial exclusion prior to the Fair Housing Act of 1968,” said Otto Catrina, CAR president, in the press release. “As an organization that deeply values inclusion, we can’t change the actions of the past, but we are taking bold action now to help build a more equitable and just future.”
However, Matthew Lewis, secretary of the Berkeley Tenants Union, alleged that CAR continues to fight against pro-tenant policies such as rent control and eviction protections that disproportionately benefit communities of color.
Lewis said CAR’s announcement is an “empty apology.”
“It is absolutely crucial to create more permanently affordable not-for-profit housing in order to reduce the cost of housing,” Lewis said in an email. “In order to lower rents (thereby benefiting tenants and the whole community), we need to create significantly more permanently affordable, not-for-profit housing.”
Owens noted that beyond CAR, the broader real estate community worked with the government to discriminate against Black people and prevent them from accessing homeownership during the New Deal era.
According to Owens, issues such as redlining explain current demographic trends in the city, including a high concentration of Black residents in South and West Berkeley compared to high concentrations of white residents in the Berkeley Hills and Elmwood.
“It’s a form of reparations for the right of minorities to live where they want, and in Berkeley that means Black people are no longer confined just west of Shattuck Avenue and south of University Avenue,” Owens said in an email.