Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Victoria J. Haneman (Creighton), Contemplating Homeownership Tax Subsidies and Structural Racism, 54 Wake Forest L. Rev. 363 (2019):
An insidious form of racism is facilitated by those who are heedless of structural inequities — or in this instance, the fact that legal structures have been developed to protect the experiences of those who are white, with an underlying obliviousness to the fact that persons of color may have a different experience. Almost 80% of the United States’ four centuries of existence has involved racialized slavery and extreme racial segregation. The subject of structural discrimination should be almost noncontroversial by this point: established social and political structures have been built upon a foundation of racial inequality, inherently conferring power and privilege to some, while perpetuating the marginalization of others. A system that treats equally those who are positioned unequally will only serve to exacerbate the pre-existing inequalities.
Sweeping changes were made to two important homeownership tax subsidies when the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (“TCJA”) was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate on December 20, 2017, and signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017. Within the framework of these tax expenditures, this Essay explores the notion that TCJA amendments have structurally racist implications both because of the persistently harmful way in which homeownership continues to be subsidized, and also because of the supply-side allocation of revenue generated by the amendments. This is less a polemic, more a thought piece, and perhaps more accurately an economic meditation, contemplating the way in which structural racism exists organically in institutions or structures that have historically incorporated racialized norms such that facially “neutral” changes to those structures are not in fact neutral. This idea is particularly relevant to housing law and policy — an area in which equal opportunity has either been blocked or simply neglected.