ICYMI: Senator Scott Moves to Protect Heirs Property Owners
SC land slipping away from families amid fragile claims and explosive growth
Heirs’ property is closely associated with black landowners in the South, but clusters of heirs’ property can be found among a number of historically marginalized populations where extended families have an attachment to the land — predominantly white Appalachia, Hispanic neighborhoods in south Texas near the Mexican border and Native American communities.
Nearly 120 years after the Civil War ended, a 1984 study estimated that heirs’ property still accounted for 41 percent of black-owned land in the South.
Heirs’ property can easily slip away from a family when a single relative with a small share of ownership forces the liquidation of the entire property in what’s known as a partition sale.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., a former Charleston County councilman, said problems related to heirs’ property are familiar to many black families, including his.
Scott said his great-great-grandfather owned about 900 acres of land near Aiken. Over the years the property was passed down, divided up and diminished by partition sales. Scott said his mother ended up with 5 acres, from his great-grandfather’s original 900-acre property.
“So many African-Americans and minorities have the same challenges,” he said. “It’s such a devastating experience when someone who is savvy takes advantage of people who are not.”
At the federal level, Scott is co-sponsoring legislation that would make it easier for farmers with heirs’ property to tap into federal programs such as farm loans, crop insurance and disaster aid. It would also allow some federal loan funds to be used to help heirs “to resolve ownership and succession on farmland that has multiple owners.”
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