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NAR Examines Racial Homeowner Gap at Forum

The homeownership-rate gap between white and black Americans at the end of 2019 was larger than it was 50 years ago when the Fair Housing Act was passed, speakers said.

WASHINGTON – The homeownership rate gap between white and black Americans recorded at the end of 2019 is larger than it was over 50 years ago, according to speakers attending National Association of Realtors® (NAR) recent discussions where they examined that issue and others that are factors pushing homeownership out of reach for American families.

During one session at NAR’s second-annual Policy Forum, panelists highlighted proposals that would tackle housing supply constraints, improve access to credit for mortgage-ready Americans, and increase post-purchase support and counseling programs, among others. NAR continues to contend that sustainable and affordable homeownership is essential for improving households’ long-term net worth and financial security.

“In 2020, there is still a persistent gap in homeownership rates between whites, African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans,” said Bryan Greene, NAR’s director of fair housing policy. “On one hand, you might expect there to be a lower homeownership rate among minority Americans, as a history of discrimination in this country has left many with lower incomes … and less generational wealth to pass on for down payments and the like.”

Greene said the homeownership rates among racial groups has risen steadily lately, but “I think many of us would have expected rates to have risen more. We did see that happen for a period from the early 90s to the early part of this century; but dramatically, at least for African Americans, we started to see that homeownership rate decline – so much so that last year the homeownership rate for African Americans dipped below the rate in 1968 when the Fair Housing Act was passed.”

Greene was joined by Jim Park, chairman emeritus of the Asian Real Estate Association of America; the Urban Institute’s Alanna McCargo; and National Association of Real Estate Brokers President Donnell Williams. Greene served for 29 years at HUD’s Office of Fair Housing before joining NAR in 2019.

NAR recently announced far-ranging changes in its approach to housing discrimination. Last month it unveiled a proposal that would review state real estate licensing laws, create a voluntary fair-housing testing program and institute new training programs across the association. NAR’s eight-member Leadership Team voted unanimously to approve the new plan in early January.

In addition, NAR, NAREB and the Urban Institute last year convened a roundtable focused on this goal of bolstering African American homeownership rates. Despite 50 years of federal efforts, white homeownership rates of 73.7% still significantly exceed the 44% rate for black Americans, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

A five-point framework that can be applied across all minority communities emerged from last year’s conversations and continues to be expanded upon as the groups work together to tackle the issue.

“The fact that homeownership rates for African Americans have regressed in spite of the presence of fair housing laws makes clear that various institutional challenges still must be faced and defeated,” said NAR President Vince Malta. “By strengthening post-purchase counseling, funding programs to prevent foreclosure for low- and moderate-income and vulnerable families of color, and building tools that help create early-warning displacement triggers, we can ensure first-time homebuyers have the knowledge and resources to remain homeowners for the rest of their lives.”

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