Monthly Archives: April 2009

Redlining alive and well in Austin, TX

Some good friends of ours are moving to Austin from NYC; they’re lifetime New Yorkers, but have decided that they want their kids (6 and 10) to grow up in a place with a bit more green space around, and since the father can work from any location, they’ve been exploring various parts of the country, including Austin. They finally settled on Austin, and came down this week to sign a lease. They want to rent initially, and they’ve been working with an excellent real estate agent, who provided them with a list of potential properties to check out (she was out of town for the Easter weekend).

The agent was given a specific price for one of the rental properties, but when the mother arrived at the property, the woman quoted a price more than $1000.00 higher than she had quoted to the real estate agent. When our friend asked why the price was so much higher than what the real estate agent had quote, the woman claimed that the price fluctuated from day to day, depending on the market.

Okay, so we’re talking a fluctuation of close to 100% on the monthly lease for a rental property. Given the current state of the housing market, this is pretty much impossible; if anything, prices are going down, not up. Consider, as well, that this conversation took place on Good Friday; I don’t really follow the stock market that closely, but even I know that the markets were closed on Friday. So clearly, there’s no good explanation for this “fluctuation,” other than redlining.

If you haven’t guessed already, our friends from NYC are black. When my wife and the mother were discussing this particular incident, neither of them specifically mentioned the elephant in the room, and I’m guessing that speaking its name would have been an embarrassment for our friend, but really, the embarrassment is a collective embarrassment for all of us, you and me, everyone in this country that just elected its first person of color as President. I would like to have thought that the fact of this election represented a fundamental shift in the strategy by which we as a nation deal with our “original sin,” and certainly some things have changed, but if people want to claim that racism no longer plays a big role in the rights of individuals to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, I call bullshit.