Berkeley Talks: How the real estate industry undermined black homeownership


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Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor talking next to a photo of her book "Race for Profit"

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, an assistant professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, discusses her new book Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership. (Left: Social Science Matrix photo; right: cover of Taylor’s book)

In 1968, following a wave of urban uprisings, politicians worked to end the practice of redlining by passing the Housing and Urban Development Act. While the act was meant to encourage mortgage lenders and the real estate industry to treat black homebuyers equally, the disaster that came after revealed that racist exclusion hadn’t been eradicated, but rather transformed into a new phenomenon of predatory inclusion.

On Jan. 24, 2020, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, assistant professor of African American studies at Princeton University, discussed her new book Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership, as part of the Matrix Lecture series at UC Berkeley. Her book, which covers the time period from the 1968 Housing and Urban Development Act to the 1974 Housing and Community Development Act, exposes how exploitative real estate practices continued well after housing discrimination was banned.

“…The intensity of anti-black racism in American society was inevitably wound into these notions of property value, neighborhood and community value,” said Taylor. “The assumption that African Americans were harmful to property values drove the desire to keep them segregated. It justified their marginalization in the housing market. It offered a “common sense” explanation for the disproportionate conditions of dilapidation, distress and substandard housing — largely owned by whites and rented to African Americans.

“This difference in value in white housing compared to black housing produced a tension between exchange value and use value in housing or more intimately, the difference between real estate and a home.”

See upcoming Social Science Matrix lectures and discussions.

Listen to the full talk above in Berkeley Talks podcast episode #78: “How the real estate industry undermined black homeownership.”