Bill to Remove Racist Housing Covenants Awaits Governor’s Signature

For immediate release:

September 2, 2021 (SACRAMENTO) – Today, the California State Legislature approved Assembly Bill 721, authored by Assemblymember Richard Bloom, to invalidate vestiges of discrimination in housing covenants. AB 721 provides property owners with a process to remove exclusionary language in housing deeds to allow for more affordable and supportive housing that is consistent with local zoning.

“AB 721 is a crucial step in remedying California’s painful history of segregation and redlining. Racist housing covenants have no place in our state and should not be used to deter critically needed affordable housing,” said Assemblymember Bloom.

Until the mid-twentieth century, racially restrictive covenants were a tool used to bar communities of color from inhabiting certain neighborhoods. While court decisions and the California Legislature have nullified racial restrictions in housing deeds, density restrictions in the same deeds remain enforceable and have the practical effect of redlining neighborhoods. Limits on the size and the number of units that can be built on a property act as clear barriers to the development of affordable and supportive housing.

AB 721 will clarify that density restrictions in private covenants cannot be used to curtail an affordable or supportive housing development that is otherwise consistent with local zoning. The measure proposes that a property owner who commits to building 100% affordable units for lower income households may build as many units as the local zoning code and land use laws would allow.

“Currently, housing projects in areas suitable for multi-family units are unnecessarily blocked by discriminatory housing deeds. AB 721 ensures that moving forward, those who no longer reside on a property cannot override local land use and stifle housing production. This bill is a much needed measure in helping address our housing crisis.”

AB 721 is headed to the Governor’s Desk for his signature.