If your next neighbors are negroes

Material Information

If your next neighbors are negroes
American Missionary Association
Mastrude, Roger G
Place of Publication:
Nashville, Tenn
Department of Race Realtions, American Missionary Association, Board of Home Missions of the Congregational Churches, Fisk University Offices
Publication Date:
Revised edition.
Physical Description:
16 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
African Americans -- Housing ( lcsh )
Race relations ( lcsh )
African Americans -- Housing ( fast )
Race relations ( fast )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Record Information

Source Institution:
Auraria Library
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
466803856 ( OCLC )
HD7288.75 .A447 1951 ( lcc )

Auraria Membership

Auraria Library
Activism and Civic Reform Collections

Full Text

Revised edition: 1951
Original copy by:
Roger G. Mast rude

All these things were done by neighborsordinary people who had
gotten confused and frightened into being fire-bugs and even murderers
because they thought their homes were being threatened. Thats dangerous
for any community and any country; lets see whats behind it, and how we
can avoid action harmful to our best interests.
Heres a big question for home-owners and renters all over the country.
Whats the story? Well, Negroes have been moving off Southern farms and
into the cities for years nowand they are going to keep on moving. No
good American believes in burning down his neighbors house, and no good
Christian believes in hate or violence. So lets talk about this thing in a
brass-tacks business way.
Hard-boiled thinking is straight thinking. That calls for factsfor a
real answer to the question, Whats my home going to be worth? The
first fact to note is this. The man from down the street doesnt know the
answer. When he says property prices will go down, hes just talking; he
doesnt know, because up to now only the experts have had the facts.
So lets listen to the experts. A good, tough-minded question is What
experts? Lets listen to the countrys biggest and most powerful association
of real estate menThe National Association of Real Estate Boards. We
know they are interested in dollars and cents, not in sentiment. Then lets take
the business mans experts on real estate valuesthe residential appraisers.
If we add the public housing people, and some important property owners,

tion almost every one asks when he hears that colored people are moving into
the house down the street. Someone almost always answers, Property values
always go down when Negroes get into the neighborhood.
The white citizen then often loses his head and does one of two things.
Either he says, Im getting out of here, fast! and puts up a For Sale
signand takes a loss to get a quick sale; or he gets stirred up and hits out
When that happens, the community is in trouble. In one city, Mrs.
Hardys house was bombed with a home-made fire bomb that set the house
on fire and sent her to the hospital with serious burns. Elsewhere in America,
two thousand white neighbors broke windows and tore at a railing on a
Negro doctors house. In another city, Mrs. Dobbins house had its plumbing
torn out by neighbors, and then was set afire twice, the doors and windows
were broken, pipes torn up, stairs broken out, and the place wrecked in other
ways. A mother-to-be was terrorized by men who constantly hung around the
house at night, keeping up a constant war of nerves. In a West Coast city,
a mother and her two children were burned to death in their house two days
before Christmas.

we ought to have a picture which adds up to something which can be de-
pended upon. Well list where the facts came from, and invite anybody who
has the shadow of a doubt to check upthe more check-up the better.
When the first colored families move into a block, instability sets in among the
remaining white owners. Sales signs suddenly appear on more than half of the prop-
erties. For a short period after that, the white owners compete with one another on
lower prices in their desire to vacate. During this period, prices either are at the old
static figure or slightly under. When the panic ceases and most of the properties ex-
posed for sale have been sold at this static figure, then gradually prices increase until
the block becomes predominantly colored and then the remaining white owners secure
substantially higher prices than those who sold earlier.
By understanding the score, and holding on, the homeowner can
save his neighborhood a flare-up of violence and misunderstanding
and, incidentally, save himself a good deal of money.
How? Lets go back to our senior expert on market values, in his article in
the Philadelphia Realty Review and in the Journal of the Residential Ap-
Neighborhood values in areas newly occupied by colored people have
sharply increased and will continue to increase. Mr. Beehler goes on to
explain that many realtors have simply not known of the increase in value
and have mistakenly advised white clients to sell, in neighborhoods where
Negroes are moving in. Beehler feels that is poor business sense. Get-
ting down to facts again, he points out that We can cite sections newly
occupied by colored during the past two or three years that have increased
in value from 60 per cent to 100 per cent on the average.

Or we can listen to James T. Daniels, a former Chamber of Commerce
manager, talking about the healthy increase in property values and the
stability brought about in a neighborhood by the high standards in a
Negro housing project.
Why the rise in values? Lets call in another expert. Architectural
Forum?s housing man states that one block in Harlem houses 3,871 people
and that if all Americans were crowded together that tightly, the whole U. S.
population could be crowded into half of New York City. In most other
cities, too, Negroes have run into such a housing shortage that three or four
families commonly have to live in one apartment.
Like all citizens, these people want an American standard of living.
The Governments housing experts (Housing and Home Finance Agency)
talked to veterans and discovered that half of all Negro veterans in the North
and in the South are living doubled up, in trailers, or rented rooms. Many
more than half want to move out, to buy, rent or build. But most of them
cant; not because they havent got the money, but because only about two
houses out of every thousand vacant, are for sale or rent to them!

With short supply (2 houses in every 1000 vacancies) and des-
perate demand, every one knows that people will pay high prices.
And that is why colored home-buying drives property values up.
% Lets get down to cases, and take a real neighborhood, where the appraiser
got the facts on every one of more than 30 houses. Before Negroes moved
in prices were between $2,200 and $3,500. Six months later prices averaged
$4,500 to $5,000 for the same houses! Values will keep going up, the
market analyst says!
How did the home-owners come out? When Negroes started moving
into the block the familiar man from down the street said, You can stick
around here if you want to. Im getting outhouses will be selling for
nothing around here, with colored in the district. So some of the home-
owners panicked and sold at or below market prices.

A few white home-owners sat tight, figuring that the newcomers were
just people. Later some of them sold their homesat much higher prices
than the houses would have brought before the first Negro came in. All
of those who stayed saw their property rise by $1000 to $2000, as a bonus for
refusing to get excited and accepting people as people.
Listing a few houses on the street, heres what happened to values:
Si House A sold in December '44 at $3,625 (white buyer) but sold in July '45 at $5,000 (Negro buyer)
St House B sold in September '41 at $3,800 (white buyer) but sold in December '44 at $4,900 (Negro buyer)
St House C sold in May '43 for $3,500 (white buyer) but sold in April '44 for $4,500 (Negro buyer)
St House D sold in April '44 for $3,300 (white buyer) but sold in October '44 for $4,500 (Negro buyer)
Si House E sold in March '44 for $3,200 (white buyer) but sold in August '44 for $4,700 (Negro buyer)
Si House F sold in February '43 for $3,000 (white buyer) but sold in May '45 for $4,200 (Negro buyer)
Si House G sold in August '44 for $3,650 (white buyer) but sold in November '44 for $4,800 (Negro buyer)
St House H sold in September '43 for $3,300 (white buyer) but sold in November '44 for $4,700 (Negro buyer)

Other houses sold at an even greater premium but had not changed hands
for years before, so we cant compare sale prices; values, though, had gone
way up.
Does the Negro make a good home buyer and carry through his pur-
chase to completion? The National Association of Real Estate Boards
asked local boards in 18 important cities. United Real Estate men in 17 of
the cities said Yes! Some added phrases like Better than whites of the
same economic status.
Does the Negro abuse property, or does he take as good care of it as
other people with the same income? The answer is given by the real estate
men in talking about rentersand every one knows that you take better
care of property you own than of property you rent. So the answer is
doubly strong. Yes, he takes good care of it; in many cases better care
than other tenants in his economic group, a majority of the real estate
boards say.

Another dollars-and-cents item tells its own story. Asked whether the
big insurance companies should consider Negroes good credit risks for home
loans, the realtors replied, There is no reason why they should not. In
other words, if every piece of business is handled with ordinary business
horse-sense, the Negro can be expected to keep up his home well, pay for it
promptly and be as good a neighbor as the next guy.
The facts the experts state add up this way:
Colored occupancy increases sales values of property. [Because
Negroes compete harder for decent housing.)
Actual study of white owners' experience has proved thatto
tune of $2,000 per house.
Business-wise, the Negro is a good home-buyer.
The Real Estate experts say Negroes take good care of property
that is at all worth caring for.
Negroes are good credit risk, if business is handled with ordinary
business common sense.
Yes, if you want to lose money on your house it can be arranged. Heres
how and why. When one or more Negro families move into a neighborhood
the old property-loss scare usually crops up. Sometimes people talk them-
selves into the scare, but often the scare is deliberately trumped-up for

money-making reasonshuge profits can be made by panicking the market,
buying fast and then reselling. Not having the facts, white home-owners
get panicky and are ready to sell at any prices, just to unload before the
expected drop in values.
So heres what happens: The white owner sells cheap. The middleman
buys cheap. The Negro buyer pays more than the original price of the days
before the scare. Who wins? Add it up yourself!
Right enoughevery time theres a panic white owners themselves break
down property sales values for a brief perioduntil the Negro buying
begins and prices boom far upward.
The moral? Dont panic; sit tight; save your own vested interest in your
home and neighborhood.
A restrictive covenant is an agreement by neighborhood property owners
not to sell to certain kinds of people, usually Negroes, Jews and Orientals.

In the past the convenant has made it possible for a few to deny other owners
the right to sell to such buyers.
It has now been ruled by the U. S. Supreme Court that the courts can-
not be used to prevent anyone from renting or selling to Negroes or other
racial groups.
Unfortunately, some people still make voluntary agreements to keep
non-Caucasians out. But any person who wants to can break the agreement
at any time and sell to anyone. The racial housing covenant is now
worth slightly less than the paper it is printed on.
From any point of view such covenants were poor protection. They never
kept out the really undesirable peoplethe murderers, law-breakers, wife-
beaters, drunks and moral degenerates. Many neighborhoods protected
by covenants remained all-white but filled up with small factories, criminal
and near-criminal elements, and the worst kinds of rooming-housesso
that home-owners property values were seriously hit.

But you can have real protection if you want it. One of Chicagos most
powerful property owners groups, the Oakwood-Kenwood Property Owners
Association has found a way to provide real protection. Even before the
Supreme Court ruled it unenforceable, the old racial covenant was thrown
'out and replaced by a Community Conservation Agreement. This agreement
legally binds all those who sign it to:
FIRST, keep up all standards set by laws (sanitary, fire-preventive, zoning,
and so on);
SECOND, have 70 or more square feet of floor space per personthere-
by stopping overcrowding, which runs doivn housing very quickly;
THIRD, sub-divide into apartments only after getting a building permit,
and then put a separate bath and kitchen in each apartmentwhich means
that the house next door cannot ruin your values by turning into a cheap
rooming house. That*s real protection!
Whatever you do, there is always the risk that some of your excitable
white neighbors (you could probably pick out the likely ones now) may fan
talk and rumor into violence. Mob violence costs lives, often the lives of
bystanders. And violence, especially when sanctioned by the good people,
undermines the very substance of democracy.

If the talk gets past the place where you and other sober citizens can
meet it by talking facts, protect yourself and your neighbors by action. Call
the Mayors office and insist that someone there take a report of the facts.
Give the facts as fully and calmly as you can. Request that any police action
be well thought out and calm, and give names of good citizens for police
and other officials to talk to in getting a picture of the situation in the neigh-
borhood. One more thing you can do is talk with those of your neighbors
who are reasonable and dependable people. The firebrands in a neighbor-
hood are always out-numbered by the better element, and the sober people
can usually stop trouble before it is well started. The religious leadership
of your community is likely to be helpful; talk with the local minister or
priest. Violence is un-American, unnecessary, and dangerous to you.
It would be strange if you had read this far and did not have a ques-
tion. Because we have tried to present the facts in a brief, direct way
taking no time out to explain why some things we all have seen dont seem
to dove-tail with the facts. So lets discuss some of these things.

Negroes live in slums. Slum housing is bad. Did Negroes make it that
way? No. The experts say that Negroes usually get into housing when it is at
least thirty years old and is out-of-date and broken down. Most slum hous-
ing is many years older than that. It has been lived in by generations of
other people, ruined before the Negroes get it. Neither the Negro tenant
nor the landlord can or will keep up this bad housing. The Negro hates it
but he usually can get housing nowhere else.
Rental housing occupied by Negroes in good neighborhoods sometimes
seems to be less well kept. True, again, in some cases, though not in most.
Again its supply and demand. Since Negro tenants have less choice, they
cant move out except to go into other bad housing. Some landlords take
advantage of the situation, doing little or nothing to keep the building
attractive and in good repair. This is usually offset by the fact that the
Negro renters are so keen to live in good surroundings that they often go to
great lengths to do themselves what the landlords have left undone. (Like the
tenants in the Lockfield Gardens Negro housing project in Indianapolis who
saved the government $10,000 by painting the dwellings themselves.)
Some Negroes dont keep up their homes. Perfectly true. Some whites
dont keep up theirs. Its a matter of education and income, and has nothing
to do with color.
With a general housing shortage, do white owners always panic and get
out? No. One of the interesting things the housing shortage has done is
to get many white owners to stay where they are, because other housing is
not available. In cases of this kind there has been no panic of salesand

people have gotten along very well as neighbors. Buffalo, New York, Cleve-
land, Ohio, and St. Louis, Missouri are examples of cities where this has
Is the panic racket in housing a conspiracy involving most real estate
men? No. Most real estate men wont touch this kind of deal; they consider
it unethical. But there are real estate operators who make a speciality of it.
What kinds of Negroes might move into your neighborhood? If Negroes
are going to buy or rent in your neighborhood, they will be people who
earn as much income as you yourselfand their occupations will probably
be similar to yours. They will have the same cultural interests as yourself,
the same ambitions and hopes for their children, the same concern for
neighborhood development in their pursuit of happiness.
Remember, in the end, property values and human values in your neigh-
borhood depend on you.
Roger G. Mastrude
- 16

What It's About Author When and Where
Realtor Work for Negro Housing National Association of Real Estate Boards (Mimeographed)
Colored Occupancy Raises Values George W. Beehler, Jr. Review of the Society of Residential Apprais- ers, January, 1945
Long Range Effect of Colored Occupancy Oscar I. Stern Review of the Society of Residential Apprais- ers, January, 1946
Housing of Negro Veterans Housing and Home Finance Agency, Washington, D. C., January, 1948
Column on Housing Architectural Forum, January, 1946
Public Housing as Seen by a former Chamber of Commerce Manager James T. Daniels American City, August, 1941
Statement Concerning Ra- cial Factors in Rent Pay- ments, Property Main- tenance, and Property Values as Reflected in Public Housing Expe- Corienne K. Robinson Housing and Home Finance Agency (un- published)

Department of Race Relations
American Missionary Association
Board of Home Missions of the Congregational Churches
Fisk University Offices
Nashville 8, Tennessee
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