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Idaho Senate targets racially discriminatory language in housing documents

Courtesy of the University of Washington

Lawmakers approve a bill that gives homeowners a tool to remove language from covenants

The Idaho Senate has unanimously approved a bill that targets racially discriminatory language in home ownership documents.

The legislation would require county clerks to develop forms that would give homeowners the chance to remove the offending language from their home documents.

“This language may not be that visible but people are often very dismayed to find their homes burdened by this language and many are unaware that they are unenforceable and they believe they cannot live in certain neighborhoods if they’re not white," said the bill's chief sponsor, Sen. Melissa Wintrow [D-Boise]. "Others know the covenants are unenforceable, but they feel unwelcome living there in those neighborhoods that maintain these racial restrictions in their titles.”

Federal laws ban race-based restrictions that were commonly added to deeds and titles in the mid-20th century. But that language still appears in the documents for older homes.

"If it’s already illegal, then why does it need to be addressed? A reporter asked me that question just recently and I said it would be like leaving the ‘whites only’ sign up over drinking fountains and ‘Negroes at the back of the bus’ after segregation was declared illegal," Wintrow said.

The bill was sponsored by a dozen senators, representing both parties. The Senate approved it by a unanimous vote and sent it to the Idaho House.

It’s similar to a bill the Washington legislature approved last year.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.