Bill to change discriminatory housing covenants passes Senate

By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports

In a 32-0 vote Tuesday, the Idaho Senate passed a bill that would allow homeowners to change any outdated racially-discriminatory covenants in their deeds.

Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, pitched SB1240 after learning of people living in her district whose homes still have outdated racial covenants. 

The outdated covenants are a violation of the Fair Housing Act and the Civil Rights Act, making them void. But under current law, Idahoans have no way to remove them. 

The bill’s statement of purpose says, “During the twentieth century, both redlining and racial covenants were widely used tools that created housing disparities based on race. Developers and private landowners embedded racial covenants in property deeds, prohibiting all non-whites from owning, renting, or occupying property.”  

If the bill passes the House, any fees homeowners must pay to a Recorder’s Office to update their deed would be waived.

Testimony on the bill in committee last week found that there may be hundreds of properties in Ada County alone that have these old race-based covenants. 

No lawmakers testified in opposition to the bill Tuesday on the Senate floor. Wintrow said the bill brings hope for the future.

“We can look at things with hope and not be bogged down by despair,” she said. 

The bill must now go to the House of Representatives for review.

<strong>Ruth Brown</strong> | Producer
Ruth Brown | Producer

Ruth Brown grew up in South Dakota and her first job out of college was covering the South Dakota Legislature. She’s since moved on to Idaho lawmakers. Brown spent 10 years working in print journalism, including newspapers such as the Idaho Statesman and Idaho Press, where she’s covered everything from the correctional system to health care issues. She joined Idaho Reports in 2021 and looks forward to telling stories about how state policy can impact the lives of regular Idahoans.

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