Learn About Racial Restriction Legacy in Seattle Real Estate

by | Mar 22, 2023

By Bill Thorness, special to the Blog

For decades, many real estate deeds in Seattle and King County had covenants written into them that would restrict housing sales based on race. The practice was outlawed with the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act in 1968.  

But its legacy and how people can get involved in repairing the damage done by this practice is the topic of “The History and Legacy of Racial Restrictions in Seattle Real Estate,” a public meeting at the Phinney Center on Wednesday, March 29, 7 p.m. It will be in Room 6 in the PNA’s blue building, 6532 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle. The event is sponsored by the PNA’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Committee

Learn about the UW Racial Restrictions Covenant Project and the history of racial segregation in King County real estate from UW Researcher Samantha Cutts and hear the perspective on the past and present from long-time Seattle Realtor Mack McCoy.  

King County has a prevalent history of segregation and exclusion. Racial restrictive covenants are distinct from redlining, another discriminatory practice. Covenants were used widely in King County and Washington state but were not the only means of enforcing segregation. A recent Seattle Times article delves into the history. 

The University of Washington project seeks to identify such covenants in real estate deeds, using project researchers and volunteers from the public. It involves reviewing language in individual deeds and reporting the results to an online database.  

Even though the covenants are now illegal, this work is relevant, because the legacy of racial restrictive covenants and other means of housing segregation still impacts our communities. 

The UW project and a bill currently being considered in the Washington State Legislature have recently been discussed in local media, on public radio stations KNKX and KUOW. A Seattle Times editorial spoke in favor of the legislation.  

For more information on the issue, see the project website.

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