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Bill to remove racially restrictive covenants passes Senate floor

Idaho Statehouse
Posted at 4:42 PM, Feb 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-08 15:18:26-05

BOISE, Idaho — A bill that looks to remove racially restrictive covenants from home deeds unanimously passed the Senate Tuesday morning with a 32-0 vote.

Democratic Sen. Melissa Wintrow of Boise, alongside others, drafted a bill to remove racially restrictive covenants from home deeds after being contacted by constituents.

“Even though this language was outlawed in 1968 with the Fair Housing Act, it still remains. When somebody reads that, that shock sends a wave to the point of ‘Can I actually buy property and live here?’ So, that’s why it’s so important to remove it,” Wintrow said.

Boise resident Ed Labenski noticed language in the official documents to his home that left him shocked. His home was built in the 1970’s and he and his wife purchased it in 2018.

The document stated:

"No part of the real property, or any building site or structure, shall at any time be sold, conveyed, rented or leased, in whole or in part, to any person or persons not of the white or Caucasian race."

“Of course, I spent several subsequent hours researching this provision and learned that it was void and unenforceable. The initial impact of the language was clear and unavoidable and it shaped our perception of the home and the area. We signed the contingency that night but we knew our involvement wouldn’t end. If possible we would find a way to deal with this issue and continue to advocate for a community that reflects our values and is welcoming to everyone,” Labenski said during testimony Tuesday.

home deed

“The bill currently will disallow anyone forward to create a racial covenant. So going forward no one will be allowed to limit anyone’s purchase of property based on race, color, ethnicity, or nationality. If you have that language on your documents which thousands of people in our state do, you can voluntarily go to your county clerk. We’ve created a form, we’re calling it a modification form that can strike through that language.”

McKay Cunningham from the College of Idaho worked with Wintrow on drafting the bill. During his testimony, he explained this was a common tool in the 20th century. While it is illegal to embed racial covenants in property deeds now, that language can still be found in some documents today.

“People are really aware and realizing that regardless if we’re responsible for what happens in.

The bill passed the Senate floor and now heads to the House side.