The Northwood Park Civic Association — which governs a neighborhood near Houston — has never got around to removing outdated deed restrictions which limit home ownership to the “Caucasian race.” And now, the Texas Workforce Commission is accusing the neighborhood group of racial discrimination for the way it shut down a black resident’s home business because they said his signs broke deed rules.
According to The Houston Press, James Mosbey had already been operating his “personal training and nutritional counseling” businesses out of his home for a decade when the Northwood Park Civic Association began trying to shut it down in January of 2013, saying that deed restrictions did not allow him to display signage.
But Mosbey insisted on keeping the businesses open, and the neighborhood group convinced Harris County to file a lawsuit against him. By August of 2013, Mosbey was forced to close his businesses.
Mosbey responded last year by filing a civil rights complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission.
In a lawsuit filed last week, the commission accused the Northwood Park Civic Association of racially discriminating against Mosbey because it had not enforced the same restrictions against white business owners.
“[T]hrough investigation, TCW-CRD learned that three white residents operate businesses within the Northwood Park subdivision, two of whom have yard signage, but the Northwood Park Civic Association has not sought to enforce restrictive covenants against them by causing them to be contacted regarding their signage or home businesses,” the lawsuit noted.
In addition to rules against operating businesses, Rule 21 of the “Article & Bylaws” of Northwood Park states that “[n]o lot in said Subdivision nor any interest therein shall ever be sold, leased or rented to, or occupied by any person other than the Caucasian race.”
Documents on the Northwood Park Civic Association website showed that the group made an effort to change the race-based restriction in 2004. But almost a decade later, the group explained in its newsletter than it was still collecting signatures for the effort.
“The 1957 deed restrictions protect the homeowners from those that would mutate a diverse residential neighborhood into a conglomeration of shops, non-residential storage and car lots, junk yards, trucking companies, trailers, and mobile homes that would ruin a residential neighborhood’s desirability and destroy the quality of life of the residents,” the newsletter said.
It went on to point out that the proposed amendments would “eliminate the discrimination clause #21 and preserve residential lots as single family dwellings not community property.”
“We continue to gather signatures of approval so the proposed changes can be finalized.”
An article in that same 2013 newsletter noted that the association was in the process of resolving allegations that it had violated the civil rights of two property owners.