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Heirs' Property Problem and Potential Solutions

JULY 8, 2021

Disparities between white and black households in South Carolina is evidenced by not only the disproportionate homeownership rate, but also historical discrimination with non-deeded family land, known as heirs' property. One-third of the land owned by black landowners in the southern US is held in the heirs' property system – mostly land that was acquired by African Americans after emancipation. Much of this land has been passed down through the generations without the benefit of a will so that the land is owned in common by all the heirs - whether they live on the land, help pay the taxes, or have ever set foot on the land. This unstable form of ownership puts heirs’ property at high risk for loss because any heir can sell his or her percentage of ownership to another who can force a sale of the entire property. Meanwhile, it can also be restricting for property owners who find themselves unable to sell the property due to the lack of clear title, also excluding the land from government programs (such as disaster relief), and the inability to claim the land as an asset to obtain a mortgage – generally putting the owners in an impossible position.


Session will discuss:

  • An overview of the legal origins and problematic ramifications of owning heirs' property

  • The strategic approach the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation has utilized to address the issue in its 22-county service area

  • Partners and a legislative study committee seeking to identify solutions to alleviate this racial barrier to affordable homeownership


Speaker: Josh F. Walden, Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation


Featuring Special Guest, Senator John L. Scott, Jr.

South Carolina Senate (District 19 - Richland County)

Sponsor, Heirs Property Rights S.560


Moderated by Nancy Lee, Habitat for Humanity South Carolina

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