President Franklin Roosevelt’s Federal Housing Administration (FHA) transformed the housing and mortgage markets during the Great Depression, offering loan guarantees to builders and long-term mortgages to qualified borrowers. From the 1930s to the 1960s, however, the FHA considered loans in segregated African-American neighborhoods, as well as integrated ones, as highly risky. The FHA’s underwriting rules excluded black people, without naming them, from getting a standard, government-guaranteed mortgage.
Join architectural historian Lee Azus who will look at a type of small, standardized “minimum house” that the FHA developed and marketed in the 1930s and 40s that, because of its rules, was off-limits to non-whites. Smaller than older, pre-Depression-era houses, the home was designed to be low-cost to build and affordable to buy. While the homes in Levittown might be the most famous example, these houses are found in Ypsilanti in several subdivisions that were once racially segregated. We will see how racial covenants, the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti real estate industries, and the government’s own recommendations kept African Americans from living in most neighborhoods, and kept Ypsilanti segregated. We’ll also look at Burton Court, a subdivision of modern homes on the Southside of Ypsilanti, built in 1954 for African-Americans.