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Agreement banning minority property owners discovered in Betton Hills neighborhood

Residents are now pushing for change
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Posted at 4:03 AM, Jul 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-02 17:16:59-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Imagine finding your dream home ready to sign on the dotted line when suddenly you're reading racist language in the documents that prohibits you from owning the home.

That's what happened to one mixed-race Tallahassee family, looking to live in the Betton Hills neighborhood.

Now they want this outdated language to be removed.

"To us it's important that Betton Hills can express a more open and welcoming wish to all neighbors. We would look forward to more diversity in our neighborhood," Mike Brezin, Betton Hills neighborhood association President.

As a long-time Betton Hills homeowner, Mike Brezin says the restrictive property language needs to be updated to reflect a diverse community.

A government loan program from the 1930's is the cause of this language written into the neighborhood covenant.

It reads in part "no person other than the Caucasian race shall own or occupy in this subdivision...."

"They expired 50 years ago and to Anabelle's credit bringing it forward to us, it really opens up a different perspective," said Brezin.

He's talking about Anabelle Dias, who didn't buy a home in Betton Hills because of this discriminatory language.

Dias' facebook post, said "I truly believe this document promotes implicitly segregation," which attracted attention from neighbors and city leaders.

"We try to keep our children from feeling hurt that we've felt, and that our grandmas have felt.This statement says something bad about the neighborhood, as well as our community," said Cynthia Barber, Deputy City Manager.

"And I do agree. I hope you all can find a way to fix this. You can't just say well you're over there and I'm over here. How you gonna love when you're trying to put a division part in it," said Lila Richardson.

Even though the original program expired in 1970, the language is still tied to deeds and affects title searches.

Right now people in that community and city leaders are trying to find a way to legally, and permanently, resolve it.

"This is not one single person, or one single group, or one single organization's problem. But that's not who we are as Tallahassee," said Barber.

Monday members of the Tallahassee chapter of 'National Action Network' announced they're launching a task force to research what solutions are available to make these changes happen.

It's possible this language exists in other neighborhood covenants around Tallahassee.

That's also something the task force plans to look into.