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Race-restrictive covenant draws attention of NAACP
Myers Park clause ruled discriminatory by Community Relations Committee
 
Published Tuesday, December 15, 2009 5:30 pm
by Erica Singleton, For The Charlotte Post

Civil rights activists are looking to roll up the welcome mat to bias in housing restrictions.

PHOTO/ERICA SINGLETON
N.C. NAACP fair housing specialist Adams (center) shows a graphic of the Myers Park neighborhood's racial makeup Monday at Little Rock AME Zion Church. At left is Charlotte-Mecklenburg chapter President Kojo Nantambu; N.C. state President the Rev. William Barber is on the right.


Local and state NAACP officials met Monday to rally support for fair housing after the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee found the Myers Park Homeowners Association violated city codes by publishing a race-specific deed on its Web site.


On Monday at Little Rock AME Zion Church, Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP President Kojo Nantambu gave the membership its marching orders.


“We’re asking members to be agents for the NAACP and the community,” he said. “We’re inviting members to inform their fraternities, sororities, lodges, churches, and co-workers that discrimination is still as prevalent and as dangerous as it was in the 1950s and 1960s.”


The CRC decision was the result of an investigation that began in 2007.
N.C. NAACP Housing Committee Chair Stella Adams, a fair housing specialist, said she received calls two years ago regarding a sample deed on the Myers Park Housing Association’s website, which listed 10 deed restrictions for the community’s 3,300 homes. The first of those restrictions, or covenants stated: “The lot hereby conveyed shall be used for residential purposes only and shall be owned and occupied by people of Caucasian (sic) race only.”


The Charlotte-Mecklenburg branch and state NAACP filed a complaint with the Community Relations Committee and a public hearing was held on Oct. 13. On Monday, Adams outlined the information she found through the course of her investigation, explaining that on numerous pages of the home association’s website were comments that they “strictly enforced their deed restrictions.” Web browsers were often pointed back to the sample deed, said Adams, and the site stated it was the MPHA’s mission to maintain the character of Myers Park.


"The main message I want to get out as a person is it was regrettable that language appeared on our Web site,” association President Pamela May said. “It was completely unintentional.”


May said the association board is contact with its lawyers daily and awaiting what the next step will be.


"The whole situation is regrettable," she said.


Adams found MPHA had funded strategic lawsuits to enforce covenants in the past, although none of those cases directly related to race. While Charlotte is 27 percent African-American, Myers Park is only 5 percent.


May argues the sample deed was left on the website because it was unenforceable.


“The restrictions on race were, of course, declared invalid in the the 1940s,” May wrote in an e-mail to The Post. “However, the language remains in the documents recorded as historical relic. MPHA has no authority to change this wording as recorded. The original language is offensive. We did not publish this with the intent to discriminate. We did not publish it with the intent to harm.”


Adams pointed out on the sample deed, the name of the homeowner, the date, and street address were redacted; however the words “Caucasian only” were left, a violation of city and federal law.


“They had a war chest where they would fund strategic lawsuits to maintain their community character,” she said. “They are prepared with a war chest, we’re prepared to go to war.”


The MPHA was notified of the committee’s findings on Dec. 11. The committee’s decision, made on December 8, concluded the MPHA advertised the sample deed with “an intent to make a limitation, preference or discrimination based on race,” a violation of the city’s Fair Housing Ordinance. If in 30 days the MPHA has not reopened the hearing for good cause, or attempted reconciliation, the city may also file suit. In addition to city code, the deed violated the Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968.


“Nobody enjoys having to point out the continuing legacies of discrimination and segregation,” N.C. NAACP President the Rev. William Barber said. “Those words weren’t written 50 years ago, they were in a document in 2007.”


The NAACP plans to use the 30 days to investigate if the MPHA enforced its will on other facets of the community.


“Have they been enforcing their will on the planning and zoning board? Keeping affordable housing out of the neighborhood? Barber asked. “We don’t know what the impact on the Charlotte community has been.”

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