Roeland Park has drafted two bills with local lawmakers to offer an easier way to remove racist pacts from the stock. Archive image.
Cities in Johnson County may find it easier to erase racist language from local housing covenants with legislation now making its way through the Kansas Statehouse.
Two bills – SB 77 and HB 2174 – were drafted by officials in Roeland Park, which has fought for years to completely lift restrictions on racist acts that are now illegal to implement but stubbornly remain on the books of some homeowners’ associations. now defunct houses. .
The legislation is garnering support from other cities, including Overland Park and Lawrence, and is also drawing attention to Prairie Village, which has addressed its own legacy of racist housing pacts. Prairie Village will have its own diversity committee discussing the issue at this month’s meeting.
Cities would have more power to remove racist language
- Roeland Park City Administrator Keith Moody said the city’s main problem was that there are no longer active homeowner associations in Roeland Park.
- Current state law states that only HOAs can remove discriminatory language from their statutes, and if there is no active HOA, there is no agency to do so and no one to hold accountable for racist language that remains on the books, Moody’s said. .
- Bills introduced in Topeka this week would change state law to allow cities “to eliminate discriminatory language from the plat or a set of covenants and restrictions registered with the plat.”
Two JoCo Democrats introduced the bills
- Senator Ethan Corson, a Democrat from Fairway, and State Representative Rui Xu, a Democrat from Westwood, introduced the bills in their respective houses.
- While such racially restrictive covenants are no longer legally enforceable, Corson said, she believes it’s still important to give cities and counties the ability to remove language to reaffirm a community’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.
- “I think it’s a painful trail to the bad parts of our history where that happened,” Corson said.
- Xu said it was important to specifically show black and Jewish members of the community “this is certainly not something that represents our neck of the woods.”
- “I can only imagine being Black or Jewish and then owning a house with this kind of language about your act and a strong desire for it to go away,” Xu said.
Covenants locked out black and Jewish homebuyers
- Spurred by developers like JC Nichols, northeastern Johnson County’s population exploded nearly a century ago, but many of these newly planned subdivisions came with restrictions that explicitly excluded Black and Jewish homebuyers.
- In a letter supporting the new legislation, Roeland Park officials included language from one of the city’s defunct homeowners’ associations that homes should never be sold or rented to “any person of Negro blood or [to] any person who is more than one-quarter of Semitic race, blood, origin, or extraction.
- “The need for change is evident,” the city’s letter reads. “We shouldn’t tolerate the remnants of racism either.”
Read the full city letter below:
The Senate bill is scheduled for a hearing on Feb. 9
- Corson said the hearing before the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs will include testimony from cities, realtors and hopefully community members.
- “We are pleased to hear that you will have a hearing, which we hope will result in your moving out of committee and an opportunity for a floor vote in the Senate,” Moody’s said.
- Xu said he hasn’t heard any backlash or negative comments about this bill and doesn’t expect much opposition.
Read more: Restrictions on racist acts remain in northeast Johnson County, but lifting them has proven difficult