Dear Monona City Council members.

I want to put something on your radar regarding housing in Monona that I think the city could really show leadership with. Through going through the process of buying and selling a home, we have been asked by an agent to write a letter to the seller explaining why they should sell their house to us. Some agents are suggesting potential buyers provide family pictures and even videos. I didn’t think much of this at first. We are a White privileged family and did not consider the implications of this for building a community that is equitably accessible to people regardless of race, gender, religion, or other identities. Agents are not permitted to share with the seller any protected class information about a buyer. But now they are getting around this by having sellers do it themselves. It is redlining all over again. Now one can assume that the progressive people of Monona would not discriminate against people because of their race, or sexuality, or religion but we would of course be wrong. And even if a seller would be happy to sell to a Black family for instance, who is to say the Black family is going to be comfortable trying to convince a White family to sell their house? It is another barrier for underserved and marginalized groups to own a home. I know Monona has recently indicated it is going to find ways to attract more diversity to our community. I would suggest one thing it could do would be to ban the use of letters and other related tools in the evaluation of purchase offers on Monona homes. Doing so would indicate to others that we are going to fight to make our community a place for diverse families to live. It is one brick in the system of oppression that can be removed. It’s a place to start.

Curtis Jones, Ph.D.

Director and Senior Scientist, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

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