The Next 400: Experts say history of racial discrimination in housing fosters today’s inequities

Updated: Mar. 12, 2021 at 7:16 AM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - 19 News will take a closer look to see if a legacy of racial discrimination in housing still affects aspects of contemporary life.

The four-part series will speak to experts who have spent years examining how the government’s policies in the early 1900s contributed to segregation.

“We called ourselves being able to move in order for greater opportunities and what we ended up being subjected to were slums,” said Yvonka Hall, executive director of Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition.

Some federal, state and local policies were explicit in excluding minorities from living and owning property in certain communities, arguing that integration would lead to social and civil unrest.

Many are familiar with the policy called redlining. Companies refused to write policies in certain neighborhoods, thus making housing more expensive or challenging to acquire.

“The actual practice of redlining goes back to the 1920s,” said Todd Michney, Cleveland native and professor at Georgia Tech. “The federal government started making these maps to see the state of mortgage security. “It really cemented a notion that remains with us today.”

Some neighborhoods furthered segregation by only permitting single-family homes to be built in the most desirable neighborhoods, effectively pricing out most households of color from those areas.

Other forms of discrimination came in the way of deed restrictions which excluded or prevented resale of homes to anyone of a certain race. We look at some of those Cleveland-area deed restrictions.

The series will explore a connection between how government policies and common private practices years ago may still affect the health, wealth and education of African Americans.

“The educational funding process in Ohio is constitutionally invalid,” according to Bill O’Neill, retired Ohio Supreme Court justice.

“Public school financing in the state of Ohio is based on property taxes, you don’t have as much funding for public schools,” said Michney.

Many experts contend policy changes are needed to counter generations of racial discrimination in housing.

You can watch the series of reports beginning Friday, March 5, on 19 News at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.

The Next 400 is a weekly series exploring issues of systemic racism and social injustice in Northeast Ohio. You can watch past reports here.

If you would like to learn more on the topic, Cleveland Public Library has these resources available.

For many parents where you choose to live is greatly influenced by the school system.

Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill said education funding in Ohio has been ruled unconstitutional four times.

“We haven’t complied with that decision in 20 years,” said former justice Bill O’Neill.

That decision he’s referring to is in 1997 in the case known as DeRolph v. State of Ohio.

A group representing more than 500 Ohio school districts filed a lawsuit in Perry County against the state stating it failed to provide adequate funding to educate its students.

The case was named for Nathan DeRolph, a student in the Sheridan High School, in the Northern Local School District in Perry County.

The districts contended the schools relied too heavily on local property taxes to fund education, meaning school systems in areas with higher property values could much more easily meet the needs of and provide more opportunities for their students, while students in poorer areas suffered.

Reporter, Harry Boomer tackles the education issue Friday. March 12 at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.

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