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Santa Monica offering families displaced by historical construction projects priority in affordable housing


(NEW YORK) — The city of Santa Monica, California, will start offering priority placement for its coveted affordable housing program to families and their descendants who were displaced by urban renewal projects in the 1950s and 60s.

The new effort aims to repair some of the historical actions that predominantly hurt Black and brown communities, as aggressive construction projects and highway-building some 70 years ago resulted in hundreds of families being evicted from their homes in the southern California coastal city.

“The city of Santa Monica is eager to share the new affordable housing priority for historically displaced households with families who were displaced from Santa Monica in the 1950s,” Constance Farrell, the public information officer for the city of Santa Monica, told ABC News on Monday.

“We encourage our former residents and their descendants to learn more about the program and we look forward to working with you to access this new opportunity,” Farrell said.

The pilot program will provide priority in city-funded and inclusionary housing for up to 100 applicants from households (including their children or grandchildren) that were displaced by the development of the Civic Auditorium in the Belmar Triangle neighborhood or the construction of the I-10 Highway in the Pico neighborhood. Inclusionary housing refers to residential developments in which rents are capped at affordable levels for income-qualifying households, according to the city’s website.

Farrell said applications will open on Jan. 18, 2022, and further information on the application process can be found at the city’s website.

About 600 predominantly Black families in Santa Monica’s Pico neighborhood lost their homes due to freeway construction, The Los Angeles Times reported. Among them were the grandparents of Nichelle Monroe, who told the Los Angeles Times that the impact of this displacement is still painful and palpable for her family today.

“If you had something and you lost it due to eminent domain, due to racism, you’re thinking about it and it affects your every move thereafter,” Monroe told the local newspaper. “It’s almost like PTSD. It affects how you think of yourself in society, what you believe is possible in that society.”

City officials, meanwhile, told the outlet that they hope the program can be a model for the nation and that they hope other communities will follow suit.

The police-murder of George Floyd in 2020 has been linked to a national reckoning on the lingering impacts of decades of racially unjust policies in the U.S. — from Jim Crow laws to redlining — and how policymakers and beyond can offer repair for the historical wrongdoings.

In a high-profile case earlier this year, Los Angeles officials voted to return a stretch of beachfront land that was seized by the city from a Black family 97 years ago, to their descendants.


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