nehemiah studio central district policy review

June 2, 2020

Racially Restrictive Covenants (1920s – 1960s)

Excerpt of text from deed in Haller Lake, Seattle, explicity prohibits sale or use of property to anyone not of the "white race."

Deeds in many neighborhoods across Seattle included racially restrictive covenants like this one taken from a covenant for Haller Lake, Seattle.Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project "Huntoon's Haller Lake"

Racially restrictive covenants are clauses written into property deeds for individual homes or entire neighborhoods that explicitly prohibit certain racial groups from occupying the property, either through purchasing or renting. The covenants were legally enforceable until a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1948 and even after that point they were still widely used and privately enforced in communities through social pressures.

Starting in the 1920s, it became common for neighborhoods and individual property deeds to include racially restrictive covenants that excluded Black, Asian American, and Jewish households. Although the covenants were rendered unenforceable by the Housing Rights Act of 1968, many of these covenants can still be found in deeds in neighborhoods around the city. Similar to the spatial patterns of redlining, most neighborhoods outside of the Central District and the International District had at least a few racially restrictive covenants explicitly excluding people of color from those areas. It was not until 2018 that a state law was passed to make it easy for homeowners to file a change to their deeds to void the discriminatory language.

Resource: “Racial Restrictive Covenants – Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project.” Accessed May 4, 2020.
“Racial Restrictive Covenants: Enforcing Neighborhood Segregation in Seattle – Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project.” Accessed May 4, 2020.