This article presents the federal scheme that assures all races the equal right to sell, purchase or lease property without discrimination.

Property rights cannot be based on race

All citizens of the United States have the right to purchase, lease, sell, hold and convey real estate and personal property, regardless of race. [42 United States Code §1982]

Further, all persons within the United States, legally or illegally, have the same rights to make and enforce contracts, sue, be sued, enjoy the full benefits of the law and be subject to the same punishments, penalties, taxes and licenses, regardless of race. [42 USC §1981]

The protection against race discrimination given under The Civil Rights Acts of 1886 and 1870 applies to discrimination generally, and is much broader than the protection given under The Federal Fair Housing Act. The Civil Rights Acts of 1886 and 1870 apply to race discrimination on all types of real estate, not just residential real estate.

In addition, the right to lease, sell, hold and convey real estate is further protected by giving all persons the right to make and enforce contracts regardless of race. Contracts in real estate transactions include purchase agreements, leases, trust deeds, grant deeds and quitclaim deeds.

Thus, racially motivated actions in any real-estate-related transaction are prohibited.

For example, a city housing authority is to construct low-income public housing. The city housing authority, through inverse condemnation, acquires an area which is considered integrated, and levels the existing structures to build high-rise public housing.

The community in the surrounding area in which the public housing is to be built opposes the construction of high-rise public housing. Instead, the city housing authority decides to construct single-family homes as public housing.

The city condemns more property to build the single-family housing project. As a result, the area surrounding the proposed development becomes all white.

The single-family housing project is approved by local community representatives. Later, as construction begins, the community representatives decide to oppose the project. The community representatives block access to the construction site and the equipment so the development cannot be completed.

The city’s mayor then actively opposes the construction of the housing project. The mayor implies the housing project will be “black housing” and does not belong in the white neighborhood. The city then decides to terminate the housing project.

Does the city violate an individual’s right to real estate because of race?

Yes! The city is racially motivated in opposition to the project. The city was originally passive in support of the project, then it actively sought to prevent the development after the citizens of the area initiated biased demonstrations.

As a result, the city is prohibited from interfering with the completion of the public housing project. The city, with discriminatory intent, delayed and frustrated the public housing project that would have allowed the area to become integrated. [Resident Advisory Board v. Rizzo (1977) 564 F2d 126]