“There was a time—still in memory for some people living in Denver—when housing policies and practices weren’t pushing people of color out of Five Points, but hemming them in.
In the 1940s, Denver faced a housing crisis. Veterans returning from World War II elbowed for space, and rents skyrocketed. Like today’s housing shortage, this crisis affected some people more than others.
At the time, it was legal for housing covenants to specifically bar non-white residents from renting or owning homes—and they did, routinely.
University of Denver law professor and historian Tom I. Romero, II, JD, PhD, has collected racially restrictive covenants from Denver neighborhoods like Bonnie Brae, Clayton, Crestmoor, Regis Heights and many others, including this one established in the southwest Denver subdivision of Burns Brentwood in 1949: “Only persons of the Caucasian race shall own, use or occupy any dwelling erected upon said lots of tracts.”
Racist covenants were even more common in the suburbs, Romero notes. In Jefferson County, a dispute over the sale of a house with a racially restrictive covenant to a Japanese American man had even gone as far as the Colorado Supreme Court in 1930. The court sided with racism, deciding it was fine that:
A person who owns a tract of land and divides it into smaller tracts for the purpose of selling one or more may prefer to have as neighbors persons of the white, or Caucasian, race, and may believe that prospective purchasers of the several tracts would entertain a similar preference, and would pay a higher price if the ownership were restricted to persons of that race.
Even after the U.S. Supreme Court held that racially restrictive covenants were unenforceable in 1948, they continued to be recorded and observed privately, according to Romero.
In 1947, around 90 percent of Denver’s black residents lived in an area bounded by the Platte River on the west and Whittier on the east, side by side with 75 percent of the city’s Latinos, and many of its Japanese American residents (who had been forced from their homes during World War II), according to a Denver Post report at the time by a member of a Denver city commission that examined race relations.
It was much more crowded back then than it is now, as multiple families squeezed into small houses and apartments. By 1950, more than 25,000 people lived in Five Points, compared to around 15,000 who lived there in the 2015 census.”
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Jones, Kristin. The Colorado Trust 8 May 2018.