Did the FHA create Ferguson and Baltimore?

Obviously that’s way too simplistic of a view on a horrendously complex issue, but let me walk you through a couple of realities.

Reality #1 – for hundreds of years, the white people in America (and elsewhere) treated the black people in ways that no human should be treated.   They were treated as property, as “less than full people,’ as people who had to “go over there” and weren’t allowed in the same places that the whites were.

As part of that separation, the FHA instituted programs that wouldn’t make it possible for black people to buy houses.    This isn’t a matter of “qualifying for the loan” or any special requirements, this was a plain and simple, “If you are a “colored” person” then the answer is no.”

Reality #2 – people of color who had good jobs, people who could afford to buy a house, had no choice but to move to the cities.    This had the long term effect of creating ghettoes.   The people of color who couldn’t get a loan to buy a home ended up renting in the city.     This created more segregation and more “rich white” in the suburbs and “not rich black” in the inner city.

Thus the ghettos were the result of mortgage lending practices instituted by the government.    The rules were designed to encourage homeownership by white people and discourage homeownership by black people.

And it worked.

Now obviously, it’s a stretch to say that FHA created the problems in Ferguson and in Baltimore.    They didn’t create the problems.

But they did lay the groundwork for it.

Their policies created an environment where racial isolation became built into the very fabric of our cities.

I’m guilty of saying it myself.    Quite often I will have people ask me, “Is it safe to go to Haiti?”

My standard response is this – “Haiti is a lot like New York, LA and Chicago.   There are places that are totally safe.    There are places that are safe to go if you know where you are and you are someone who knows the area.   There are also places where you JUST DON’T GO.”

You see what I did there?   I just reinforced the stereotype that the areas in our big cities that are predominantly black are not safe for white people.

And how did those areas “happen?”

In large part because the government, in their infinite wisdom from many years ago, implemented housing and mortgage lending policies that,  while not creating the “separate but equal” malarkey, engrained it further into our society.

That engrained policy that created the ghettoes in this country made riots in Baltimore and Ferguson possible.

As a former mortgage lender, I have to admit that I’m glad that those policies weren’t in place when I was writing mortgages, but it does not feel good to know that what was “my” industry was in large part responsible for the creation of the ghetto.

Reality #3 – The government, in this particular area, is part of the problem, not part of the solution – at least not yet.


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