Washington State’s Covenant Homeownership Act Program 

Get Involved and Share Your Experiences with the Lasting Impact of Discrimination in Washington State.

Learn more about why this historic effort to address the role of government institutions in housing-related discrimination is underway

In May 2023, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed into law the Covenants Homeownership Act (Act). The landmark law calls for a research study to document any complicity of government institutions in racial housing discrimination as well as the impacts of such discrimination on homeownership access. The Act also requires the study to analyze how well race-neutral approaches to expanding homeownership opportunities might overcome or remedy any identified harm and whether legally designed Special Purpose Credit Programs are necessary to fulfill the task. If the study reveals the government played a role in supporting discrimination, it will also determine who could be eligible for homebuyer assistance programs to reduce racial homeownership disparities in the state. Families that were harmed by racist restrictions in housing opportunities may be eligible for a down-payment assistance program. Funding for the program will come from a $100 Covenant Homeownership recording fee that will apply to real estate transactions.

The National Fair Housing Alliance is proud to have been selected along with Abt Associates, the Fair Housing Center of Washington, and the Northwest Fair Housing Alliance, to complete the study, a fundamental step in implementing the Act. Updates, opportunities for input, and findings from this study will be frequently posted to this page as we support Washington state in its implementation of this first-of-its-kind law to address the impacts of discriminatory state-sponsored actions. Visit https://www.wshfc.org/covenant/ for more in-depth information.

Timeline showing the key milestones in the creation of the Covenant Homeownership Act.

Click below to watch a 10-minute presentation on the Covenant Homeownership Act.

Covenant Homeownership Act Presentation

Homeownership is key to financial stability and many other opportunities. At the National Fair Housing Alliance, we know that where you live matters, whether it’s access to credit or the Internet, quality health care and education, or even healthy food options. Unfortunately, the Black/White and Latino/White homeownership gaps today are as big as it was before passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968.

In Washington state, like in many other parts of the country, discriminatory real estate covenants were present until the 1960s, leading to the lingering homeownership barriers that minorities face. Researchers from the University of Washington found more than 40,000 examples within the state of racist neighborhood covenants that excluded people of color.

Covenants like this haven’t been in effect since 1969, but they’ve still been poisoning us since the day they were written. This bill is doing the right thing.

Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State

The result of these racist covenants is evidenced in lagging homeownership and wealth gaps. White homeownership in the state was 67 percent in 2019 while Black homeownership was only 31 percent. Latino homeownership in the state during the same period was 45 percent.

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