Sunday, March 15, 2009

Garrow reviews Satter, Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America

FAMILY PROPERTIES: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America by Beryl Satter is reviewed in the Washington Post by David J. Garrow. In this book, the author, a Rutgers University historian, writes about her father, a Chicago lawyer. Garrow finds it "a penetrating examination of the financial discrimination that thousands of African Americans encountered in their northward migration to cities such as Chicago" and "a superbly revealing and often gripping book."
Family Properties
includes the story of Albert and Sallie Bolton, a young African American couple who purchased a home in Chicago's Hyde Park in 1955 on an installment plan "because in the 1950s federal agencies refused to insure mortgage loans for buyers in racially integrated areas."

The seller, a white real estate agent named Jay Goran, specialized in just this kind of deal....After the Boltons signed the contract, Goran added extra fees to their monthly bills. When they called to complain, he refused to speak to them. Then came repeated visits from housing code inspectors....After 18 months, the Boltons fell behind on a payment, and Goran filed for eviction. Prospective buyers were already showing up at the house when the young couple sought help from a hardscrabble Chicago lawyer, Mark Satter.

The novel lawsuit that Satter filed on behalf of the Boltons succeeded only in postponing their ouster until 1959. But in the meantime, Satter researched Goran's tactics, learning, for example, that the real estate speculator had purchased the house for $4,300 just a week before he sold it to the Boltons for triple the price, and that he recently had filed repossession claims on 20 other properties. Satter used the information to publicize how the rigid racial segregation of Chicago's housing market cost the city's black citizens $1 million a day in inflated prices and rents.

Continue reading here.