NAREB town hall: Here are strategies to improve Black homeownership

Credit scores, downpayment assistance, zoning laws and more were discussed

In a town hall meeting hosted by the National Association of Real Estate Brokers on Thursday, members of the real estate community came together to discuss inequalities in Black homeownership and how to remedy them.

Strategizing Black homeownership, downpayment assistance and fair housing were just some of the topics brought up in the hour-long video discussion.

Henry Taylor, a professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Buffalo’s Center for Urban Studies, said there needs to be more fair housing offered to Black Americans in areas where property values appreciate fairly.

“Over the past 50 years, there has been virtually no sustainable growth and Black homeownership,” Taylor said. “Fast forward to 2020, and we find the current Black homeownership rate is only 44%, virtually the same as it was 50 years ago, back in 1970. Not only this, but many of these Black-owned houses are located in neighborhoods where property values appreciate very slowly.”

Another large portion of the conversation was directed to Black homeowners with mortgages underwater.

Nikitra Bailey, executive vice president at the Center for Responsible Lending, said that Black homeowners lack the same amount of equity as white homeowners due to redlining.

“We are at a point of reckoning in our country,” Bailey said. “Our nation’s discriminatory practices and housing are at the root of many of the injustices that we see people, leading protests calling for repair for, we know that the COVID-19 pandemic is falling disproportionately on Black communities because of the structural discrimination. So structural and historic discrimination has left our families more vulnerable.”

Bailey said credit scores favor those with more wealth, and federal policies need to step up assistance with Black homeowners.

“If federal policies help white families build wealth over time, and did not do the same thing for Black families, we’ve got to throw those things out because they’re not allowing these kinds of neutral ways for policy determinations to be made, they’re actually harming African Americans and hurting them because of those historic practices,” Bailey said. “That really hurt our opportunity to participate fairly and the economy overall.”

David Clunie, executive director of Black Economic Alliance, said Black renters are paying more than they should, therefore limiting their chances at homeownership.

Clunie used where he lives in Harlem, New York, as a comparison in conversation. Where people live is based on if they have a good-paying job, and credit-worthy as a borrower, Clunie pointed out.

“There are many people in New York and other cities who are paying over 50% of their income to rent, so that’s a double negative where they’re putting out way more than they should be and just don’t have the opportunity to build wealth,” Clunie said. “Because they are renting and because they’re paying so much out of pocket.”

Rodney Harrell, vice president of family home and community at AARP, said barriers in zoning need to be fixed so everyone has an equal shot at housing.

“One of the impacts [to our] our legacy is that we have zoning,” Harrell said. “This limits the options in many communities and many African American communities. And frankly, many minority white communities. Expanding the types of options of housing that can be built, like cohousing.”

“We look very closely at how accessory dwelling units and expand the wealth-building opportunities and opportunities for caregiving and other issues as well, but they’re not illegal in many communities to build, or there are zoning barriers that are put up that prevent people from being able to get those options,” Harrel continued.

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