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"Owned: A Tale of Two Americas" explores racist housing history

Courtesy of Giorgio Angelini
Jimmy Silvestri, a resident of Levittown, NY


The history of home ownership in the US is a complicated one, but a look at that history can help shed light on why today’s housing economy is the way it is —especially if you go back to post-World War II America.


The new film, Owned: A Tale of Two Americas explores the overtly racist housing policies of the mid-twentieth century that led to two contrasting realities — white middle class suburban life, and Black and Latino segregation and disenfranchisement. Director Giorgio Angelini joined me in studio to talk about the postwar policies that shaped what housing would look like for generations to come.


"The government would ensure loans in certain areas and not in others. It was all based on this perception basically that having Black families in your neighborhood would bring values down. So the government trying to spur this home ownership society and creating a middle class through home ownership inherently wanted to retain values. And so they bought into this ideology that was obviously very racist, and it sort of extrapolated in a thousand terrible ways."

Owned: A Tale of Two Americas shows June 13 at 9:30 p.m. at the Roxie Theatre as part of the SF Documentary Festival.