Lawmakers want to remove racist covenants from housing contracts
Kent Ervin, a homeowner in Reno and chemistry professor at UNR, said his 2015 purchase of a home built in 1930 forced him to sign a deal that included a racist covenant that bars anyone except a white or Caucasian person from owning, occupying or using the property.
He said he’s not alone — ACLU Nevada interns found that thousands of racist covenants exist in 31 subdivisions in Washoe County.
If SB368 passes, homeowners could soon petition a judge to remove historic racist housing covenants from their housing documents that made it forbidden for people who are not white to live in certain communities or buy homes. Upon determining whether the provision is void and unenforceable, a judge would issue a court order to county recorders to redact the voided language but retain the “original written instrument.”
“Let me be clear, history is important,” said Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas), the bill sponsor. “And the existence of the language will not be scrubbed from history.”
Harris said the policy is a follow-up from a 2019 bill that created a form that declared homeowners’ displeasure towards discriminatory language but retained the racist covenants. She said the new policy would implement a mechanism that would remove the discriminatory language from housing documents, and moving forward, new documents would omit racist covenants at no cost, with the changes carried out by county recorders.
She said the process models California, a state seeking a reparations plan for decades of housing discrimination against Black residents that stemmed from Jim Crow segregation.
Shawnye Garren, a representative of the Recorders Association of Nevada and Douglas County recorder, testified in neutral, thanking Harris for working with them but saying that the organization questions the intent behind the proposal.
“We’re happy to carry forward the orders as they come to our office and redact those documents as directed,” Garren said.