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Opinion: The black-white homeownership gap is wider than it was in the ’60s. Here’s how to close it.

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Systemic discrimination in housing and lending policies has been a primary driver of social and economic inequality among communities of color. Black households own about 2.9% of the wealth in the US, just slightly more than they did in 1863 when the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted. For perspective, the average white household today has about $188,000 in wealth, compared to $24,100 and $36,100 for black and Latino families, respectively. Without interventions, the researchers project that by 2053, the median wealth of Black households will fall to $0, and by 2073, the median wealth of Latinos will suffer the same fate.

Elected officials and affordable housing advocates must do more than just talk about the imperative for fair housing reforms. They must act boldly and decisively to ensure that the dream of homeownership in America does not remain an empty promise for another generation of Black and Latino families.

By implementing the following policies and programs, we can finally break our nation’s legacy of housing discrimination, and all Americans, of all races and backgrounds, will reap the benefits.

In the 1930s, the Home Owners Loan Corporation institutionalized redlining, where mostly non-white neighborhoods were marked as undesirable and shaded red to warn potential lenders. Meanwhile, the mostly affluent white neighborhoods were considered the most desirable and credible.

Federal, state, and local policymakers must now work to correct the opportunity cost of decades of discrimination and discrimination in communities now struggling to rebuild from disinvestment and economic hardship. As communities develop, policies must ensure that residents have continued access to affordable and sustainable rental and homeownership opportunities.

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A critical first step is securing passage of the Neighborhood Housing Investment Act, which is languishing in Congress. The bill would offer tax credits to fuel affordable housing reinvestment and rehabilitation in distressed neighborhoods, which, in turn, would increase home values ​​and help build intergenerational wealth among households of color. It is estimated that this investment would generate more than $1.25 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue.

Implement zoning reforms

Although the Supreme Court outlawed explicit racial zoning in 1917, it did not outlaw the practice of exclusionary zoning, which effectively segregated neighborhoods by race and wealth. It was designed to keep low-income households and people of color out of predominantly white, middle-class neighborhoods.
Today, policies like exclusionary zoning are reinforcing segregation and creating pockets of concentrated poverty in communities across the United States. Restrictive land use and zoning laws limit the expansion of our nation’s affordable housing supply and prevent millions of Black, Latino, Asian, and Native Americans from accessing quality jobs, good health care, education, and safe and secure neighborhoods. clean. It is time for Congress, state and local governments to work to dismantle these discriminatory practices.
Citi research reveals that eliminating critical disparities, in things like housing and wages, for blacks alone would add $5 trillion to US GDP over a five-year period. Government, corporate, and civic leaders should support the development of mixed-income, mixed-use communities that appeal to all income levels and simultaneously serve residential, commercial, and civic purposes. They lead to greater upward mobility, but also to better long-term health and economic outcomes for all residents.

Work to change mindsets

In its first decades, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) helped countless white families gain financial security by providing sustainable and affordable home loans, yet only 2% of FHA-backed loans FHAs were for homebuyers of color. During this time, when housing was much more affordable, the FHA also championed the construction of suburban subdivisions and the use of racially restrictive covenants, which prohibited the sale of millions of homes to all but white families.
Advancing black homeownership and closing the racial wealth gap requires more than passing seminal housing reforms. They demand a fundamental change in our collective national mindset. Affordable housing leaders, local fair housing organizations, and national nonprofits have a critical role to play in rooting out racial bias in the housing market that consistently understates home prices in Black neighborhoods. and perpetuate unfair mortgages, loans, credit, and tax assessments.
Equity-based initiatives, such as first-generation down payment assistance, which extends credit to first-generation homebuyers, and special-purpose credit programs, which help lenders and nonprofits to tailor loan programs to specifically meet the needs of economically disadvantaged consumers, are vital to opening doors to housing and access to credit for underserved groups.
Fair housing groups in different communities are launching WIMBY (Welcome In My Backyard) campaigns, challenging individual residents to pledge that they welcome everyone to their neighborhood. And across the country, Habitat for Humanity affiliates are hard at work on a new initiative to increase Black homeownership and advocacy efforts to expand affordable housing, revitalize struggling neighborhoods and develop low-use communities. mixed.

Fair and affordable housing is not a luxury. It is a basic human right and a vital gateway to greater health, education, and economic well-being. As we celebrate Juneteenth and the American Dream of homeownership, we must come together as a nation to pave a new path forward, one that is grounded in the long-awaited promise of fair housing and justice for all.

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