SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) – The city of Santa Monica will provide affordable housing to black families displaced during highway construction and other urban renewal projects of the 1950s, according to a newspaper report on Sunday.
About 600 families lost their homes when Interstate 10 was built through the Pico neighborhood, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Starting January, these former residents and their descendants will be offered preferential access to sub-market rental homes in the hopes of returning to the Los Angeles County coastal city.
Affordable housing will also be available for families removed when the city leveled another black area, the Belmar Triangle, to build the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.
The children and grandchildren of the displaced are eligible.
“We’ll be able to redress a historic injustice,” Santa Monica councilor Kristin McCowan told The Times. “At some point we’ll do that for more and more people. And when other communities start doing their part, you may see a real tidal wave across the country. “
The city program is initially open to 100 displaced families or their descendants with limited incomes, but city guides hope their efforts will become a national model to address the racist policies of the past.
Santa Monica’s act of civic penance is an attempt to recognize the damage inflicted on mostly black communities during the post-war era of highway construction and urban renewal, the Times said.
The program is part of a nationwide movement to compensate residents for racial damage related to home and property. In September, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed law allowing the return of land on the coast known as Bruce’s Beach to the descendants of a black couple evicted from Manhattan Beach nearly a century ago.
Nichelle Monroe, whose grandparents were evicted from the Pico neighborhood, told the Times she had mixed feelings about the new housing program and the city’s other recent efforts to recognize black history. Monroe believes the city should make it easier for her family to actually buy a house in the community.
“But what else is there?” said Monroe. “The theft is still there. The generational wealth is still gone. “
According to the Times, more than 1 million people across the country lost their homes in the first two decades of highway construction alone. Early on, highway planners aimed to destroy many black neighborhoods, and displaced families often received little compensation.