MONTHLY THOUGHT LEADER
Thoughts from members of our Team as leaders in the affordable housing industry.
Colorado Led the Nation in Fair Housing in 1959
Housing Development Manager
Ruth Denny and Eugene Briscoe moved to Denver from St. Lewis in 1951. Initially, the couple rented rooms in a redlined neighborhood, but Mr. Briscoe’s salary at the Federal Finance Center combined with Mrs. Denny’s salary as a public school teacher was enough to buy a house. At the time, people of color were not permitted to live east of York Street in Denver, but the couple found a real estate agent who would risk his license to help them buy a home on Cook Street, pushing the boundary 12 blocks east.
Ruth and Eugene’s story was not unique. In Denver, the race boundaries were more fluid than other cities. In 1959, 9 years before the Federal Fair Housing Act was passed, Colorado became the first state to outlaw discrimination in public and private housing. The Colorado Fair Housing Act (HB 259) was designed to protect everyone who is a member of a protected class from being discriminated against when trying to find or maintain a place to live. In Colorado, those classes included race, creed, color, and national origin or ancestry when the original laws were passed in 1959. Since then, the law has been updated to include sex, marital status, religion, and physical handicap, making Colorado’s laws more expansive than the Federal law, even today. While federal and state laws prohibit denying or offering unfair terms in a residential housing transaction, Colorado takes it a step further by prohibiting discrimination in commercial real estate transactions.
With Colorado leading the way, momentum for fair housing laws built throughout the country. On April 11, 1968, President Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act prohibiting discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. The Fair Housing Act was instrumental in outlawing many of the discriminatory housing practices of the past; however, it still has not managed to reverse housing segregation or fully address discrimination. In her book the Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson notes, “custom had a way of lingering well after the ink was dry”.
How can we lead today?
There are still extreme racial disparities in homeownership and wealth. In 1968, 65.9% of white families owned their homes, a rate that was 25% higher than the 41.1% of black families that owned their homes. Today, the black homeownership rate has not changed, while the rate of white homeownership has increased five percentage points to 71.1%. These homeownership disparities contribute to the shocking racial wealth gap in America. According to Brookings, in 2021, the median white American in their late fifties had $251,000 more wealth than the median Black American.
With this history, and present day reality in mind, new approaches are needed to achieve racial equity. Archway is thrilled to be partnering with Elevation Community Land Trust (ECLT) on our first ever homeownership project in Gunnison, CO. Gunnison Rising will provide homeownership opportunities to families in Gunnison who could not otherwise afford to buy a home. Archway will build the affordable homes and ECLT will preserve the long-term affordability, while residents will build modest equity. We know there is so much more work needed to bridge the racial homeownership and wealth gaps in Colorado, and Archway is proud to be part of the solution for 68 families – and more to come!