WSU professor uncovers discrimination in Ogden’s housing economy

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For centuries this country has been divided by race. During times of legal segregation, there were places you could or could not live as a person of color, and it was the same in Ogden. Although these limitations are no longer written into law today, they remain hidden deep in the roots of the housing system.

Jennifer Gnagey, assistant professor of economics at Weber State University, works with research assistant Marisa Arreguin to change discriminatory housing models in Ogden and Weber County.

Housing discrimination is not just a problem of the past; market segregation 80 years ago still affects Ogden today. Through research into restrictive covenants and racial restrictive covenants, Gnagey was able to explain why some parts of Ogden have more stable housing markets than others.

This research is still in the preliminary stages for the city. According to Arreguin, similar projects are being carried out nationwide. In Minneapolis, the Prejudice Mapping Project maps racial alliances that have been effective in creating and complementing geographic racial segregation, affected by defining characteristics of quality of life.

“This means that the ramifications of segregation can be found in school districts, in the quality of education and resources for schools, as well as in house values ​​due to proximity to less desirable areas that are within walking distance. close to highways, factories or landfills, ”Arreguin said.

By definition, redlining is the act of denying a loan or insurance to a person based on the region in which they live, as this has been viewed as a bad financial risk. Since racial restrictive covenants, a contractual agreement prohibiting the rental, sale, purchase, or occupation of property by anyone except whites, were established between the 1920s and 1940s, areas that were predominantly poor and occupied by minorities were and still are viewed as junk by financial institutions, continuing to wipe out communities today.

“People often think that government-sanctioned housing segregation is something that only happened in the South,” Gnagey said. “But, in fact, many policies and practices in the northern and western states have been used to create and maintain racially segregated neighborhoods.”

So far in their research, Gnagey has found three racial alliances – two on the East Bank of Ogden and one in South Ogden – that restricted who could own property based on their race and income. The team is working to uncover more of these engagements as they delve deeper into Weber County’s documentation restrictions.

In May 2020, the Utah state legislature passed HB 374, which now prohibits restrictive covenants on property documents and allows homeowners to revoke such restrictions free of charge. Landowners can do this anytime the municipal registrar’s office is open.

Residents of Weber County can find more information through the Gnagey Neighbors Further Fair Housing Facebook group and by visiting neighborsplusfairhousing.org. Community involvement is one of the biggest goals of Gnagey and Arreguin.

“An informed discussion on the topic is important because we hope it will open the door to a wider range of challenges that lead to discrimination in housing, which can lead individuals to take action to show that our communities are not a haven for any practice of discrimination, ”said Arreguin.

Gnagey and Arreguin will also be at the Weber County Registrar’s office every Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. this summer to help homeowners research and change covenants on their property.

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