Recording Fee Increased to Fund Racial Reparations?

In Washington state, recording fees collected by county auditors are dictated by state statute.  In 2023, Washington state enacted HB 1474, which created the “Covenant Housing Program”.   To fund this program, since January 1, 2024, counties have been required to collect an additional $100 to record a real estate document (e.g., a deed or a deed of trust).  This is roughly a 50% increase.

The funds collected are to be dedicated to funding studies that document racial barriers to homeownership and to set up programs in the Department of Commerce to provide down payment and closing cost assistance to “economically disadvantaged classes of persons identified in a covenant homeownership program study” (RCW 43.181.030).  Such classes may include classes of persons who “share . . . common characteristics such as, race, national origin, or sex.”

In fact, the stated purpose of the program is to “to address the history of housing discrimination due to racially restrictive real estate covenants in Washington state.”  The bill further states that “[g]enerations of systemic, racist, and discriminatory policies and practices have created barriers to credit and homeownership for black, indigenous, and people of color and other historically marginalized communities in Washington state.” 

The legislation does not reference the fact that in 1948 the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated such racially restrictive covenants.  Pretty much every lawyer in America covered Shelley v. Kraemer in law school.  As a result, title policies routinely disclaim coverage for violations of racial covenants (i.e., such covenants are presumed to be unenforceable).  And in 1968, the federal Fair Housing Act made it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in the sale, rental or financing of housing. According to the legislature, though, that wasn’t enough. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.