Decades-old deed restriction reads 'Caucasians only'

An old, outdated deed restriction in the Oak Forest neighborhood says only white people can own or rent property.

HOUSTON - Decades-old deed restrictions can protect a community's charm and value, but some also contain outdated and racist reminders of a dark past.

A deed restriction drafted in 1947 for the Oak Forest neighborhood states:

"None of the lots shown on said plat shall be conveyed, leased, given to or placed in the care of, and no building erected thereon shall be used, owned or occupied by any person other than of the Caucasian Race. "

It also contains a clarification that the restriction is not intended to include "those employed as servants."

A series of Supreme Court cases and federal civil rights laws have ensured that the outdated language is unenforceable, according to KHOU 11 legal analyst Gerald Treece.

"Houston, like so many southern cities, used to have racially restricted covenants," Treece said. "These are so-called obsolete rules, and we have so many in Texas that it would shock you."

Oak Forest Homeowners Association President Martha Mears said that deleting the racist language is a complicated and time-consuming process.

She says since it is no longer enforceable, it’s not worth the time and resources to change the old wording.

Mears said if the association would ever need to develop a completely new set of deed restrictions, the language would be removed.

"It's more of a hassle, because it doesn't change anything," Treece said. "It's not a legal problem; it's an optics problem."

While it may not be a legal issue, some say the racist wording is hurtful and offensive.

"These restrictions shouldn't be there, they should be crossed out," said Mario Sandoval, who owns three homes in the neighborhood. “I am Hispanic, so it goes against everything I believe in.”

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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