FEBRUARY 27, 1960
NEW YORK—I have just received a copy of a book, called "Privately Developed Interracial Housing," written by Eunice and George Grier and published by the University of California Press. This study was sponsored by a group of distinguished business and professional leaders of New York who make up the Commission on Race and Housing, of which Earl Schwulst, president of the Bowery Savings Bank is chairman.
Mr. and Mrs. Grier, who are well-known research specialists, spent 18 months traveling throughout the United States analyzing 50 established interracial communities located in 21 cities. In most of the communities surveyed the majority of the residents were white, but none of the communities reported any racial conflict and there seemed to be good relationships between white residents and the minority of Negro residents.
One point that is always brought up by the real estate interests is that property values will decline when Negro families are allowed to move into white residential areas. The survey disproved this theory, for property values had not declined in the areas researched. In fact, there were a number of cases where well-designed interracial developments had raised the standards of housing in their neighborhoods.
This study seems to me particularly important in New York State just now when the legislature has before it bills to prevent discrimination in private housing. Up to 1959 we could say in New York State that we had better civil rights legislation than any other state of the Union, but last year four other states enacted far-reaching laws covering private housing and we did nothing on this subject.
The New York State Committee on Discrimination in Housing and its 38 affiliated organizations, which represent church, labor and civil agencies, have spearheaded a campaign on the Metcalf-Baker Fair Housing Practices bill. Experts in the field consider this a model piece of legislation and it has the support of every major religious group in the state as well as that of leading builders, developers and bankers.
Governor Rockefeller made a public commitment to the press last summer promising to work for fair housing legislation this year. And he has introduced his own bill, but supporters of the Metcalf-Baker bill are disturbed because the Governor's bill, it is estimated, would bar discrimination in only 20 percent of the state's private housing market.
One surmises that the Governor felt he could not get the legislature to pass the more liberal bill and, working on the theory that a little gain is better than nothing, introduced a bill he thought might pass. This theory works in two ways, however. Sometimes it means that you fail to get the better bill because you divide the interest of people who do not want to fight and now have an excuse to say that if the Governor will be satisfied with something less far-reaching there can't be a great deal of harm in following his lead. For that reason, I think, the Grier study should be read by both the Governor and the legislature, since it does away with many of the fears that have held people back in the past.
Integrated housing has not brought about racial friction. It has not reduced property values. And there are enough communities that have tried it to give us the right to feel that this should be a general pattern.
Certainly, the State of New York should give all of its citizens the basic civil right of "equal opportunity to bargain for shelter for one's family in an open housing market."