Heirs' property is a relic of post-Reconstruction law, which allows white developers to exploit the diffuse ownership of Black family homes to steal them and kick out the people who live there.
Following on an in-depth Propublica investigation into heirs' property title-thefts, Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has included heirs' property reform in her ambitious agriculture plan.
In her plan, Warren pledged to end policies that have perpetuated this discrimination and to help these families of color preserve their ownership, build wealth and gain access to sustainable livelihoods. Specifically, she promised to fully fund a relending program laid out in the 2018 Farm Bill, which would provide loans to heirs’ property owners to clear their titles and consolidate ownership. She announced that she would prioritize funding lending organizations in states that have enacted the Uniform Partition of Heirs’ Property Act, legislation that expands heirs’ rights to their property.
Warren said she plans to further address the wider needs of heirs’ property owners, who struggle to qualify for U.S. Department of Agriculture loans, disaster relief and housing assistance when they lack a clear title. Her plan would allow heirs’ property owners who want to access farm loans to present alternative documentation to the USDA. In addition, those in need of other forms of federal assistance could use such documentation to access loans through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Elizabeth Warren Announces Plans to Help Heirs’ Property Owners [Lizzie Presser/Propublica]