The Color of Law

The Color of Law

A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

Richard Rothstein

At the time, the Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Administration not only refused to insure mortgages for African Americans in designated white neighborhoods like Ladera; they also would not insure mortgages for whites in a neighborhood where African Americans were present. So once East Palo Alto was integrated, whites wanting to move into the area could no longer obtain government-insured mortgages. State-regulated insurance companies, like the Equitable Life Insurance Company and the Prudential Life Insurance Company, also declared that their policy was not to issue mortgages to whites in integrated neighborhoods. State insurance regulators had no objection to this stance. The Bank of America and other leading California banks had similar policies, also with the consent of federal banking regulators. Within six years the population of East Palo Alto was 82 percent black. Conditions deteriorated as African Americans who had been excluded from other neighborhoods doubled up in single-family homes. Their East Palo Alto houses had been priced so much higher than similar properties for whites that the owners had difficulty making payments without additional rental income. Federal and state housing policy had created a slum in East Palo Alto.

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