Last night, I watched a movie called An Education. There was a short scene which featured one of the main characters engaging in the practice of blockbusting.
According to the Wikipedia entry, blockbusting “was a business practice of U.S. real estate agents and building developers meant to encourage white property owners to sell their houses at a loss, by fraudulently implying that racial, ethnic, or religious minorities — Blacks, Hispanics, Jews et al. — were moving into their previously racially segregated neighborhood, thus depressing real estate property values.”
In the scene from An Education, David assists a black family’s move into a neighborhood predominantly occupied by lonely, older, white women, or as he and his business partner called them, stats. During the move-in, a white woman looks suspiciously out her window. Later, David explains to Jenny, his love interest, that he helped the family move in because it will scare the women, leading them to sell him their flats at a cheap price, after which he’ll sell the flats at a higher price.
In Kansas City, before blockbusting was outlawed, real estate agents were known to go door-to-door in predominantly white neighborhoods and falsely tell the residents that their neighbors down the street just sold their homes to black families, which would result in a drop in property value because it was perceived that neighborhoods with african american residents were unsafe. This tactic would scare the residents into selling their homes quickly, usually below the property’s value; then that very same property would be sold at a higher price to a black family, along with a hefty commission for the real estate agent and his/her broker.
While blockbusting was more or so a way to make money, it served as a weapon to racially segregate neighborhoods, too.