‘Race for Profit’

 

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, University of North Carolina Press, 349 pages, $30. Although the housing crisis of recent years seems like déjà vu, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor in “Race for Profit” covers the few years in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the Fair Housing Act of 1968 nominally ended the government’s longstanding practice of redlining. Ever since its inception during the Great Depression, the Federal Housing Administration had insured mortgage loans made by private lenders for purchases in white neighborhoods; purchases in or even near black neighborhoods were generally ineligible. The benefits of homeownership swelled the ranks of the postwar middle class, transforming the economy while entrenching residential segregation. President Lyndon Johnson promised to change these exclusionary practices, though Taylor says that the pressure was coming from all directions. Cities like Detroit and Los Angeles erupted in violent unrest. Even the real estate industry realized that white suburban home buyers were becoming a saturated market. Taylor’s book, longlisted for this year’s National Book Award, meticulously documents what happened next, as the federal government partnered with a real estate industry enthusiastic about exploiting a new market but refusing to bear most of the risk. She details bungling mismanagement, gross corruption, distorted incentives, civil rights regulations that went unheeded and unenforced — what Taylor calls a system of “predatory inclusion” that was distinct yet not entirely free from the racist system of exclusion that preceded it.

NEW YORK TIMES