Quote of the day: Race and real estate

Today’s quote comes from historian Beryl Satter, author of the new book Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America, which was reviewed in today’s edition of the New York Times.

Satter tells the history of the real estate wars in postwar Chicago through the story of her father, a civil-rights attorney, detailing the practices that would make it become one of the country’s most segregated cities.

“While contract sellers became millionaires, their harsh terms and inflated prices destroyed whole communities,” Ms. Satter writes. “Because black contract buyers knew how easily they could lose their homes, they struggled to make their inflated monthly payments. Husbands and wives both worked double shifts. They neglected basic maintenance. They subdivided their apartments, crammed in extra tenants, and, when possible, charged their tenants hefty rents. Indeed, the genius of this system was that it forced black contract buyers to be their own exploiters.”

Although reforms have been made, Satter warns that many of the same problems persist.

“Prospective black home buyers are still ‘steered’ away from white neighborhoods,” Ms. Satter writes. The saddest echo of the bad old days, she adds, is that “between 2004 and 2006 the American city with the most residents holding subprime loans was — Chicago.”

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