Report findings were released yesterday at NAREB's Issues Forum held during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation - Annual Legislative Conference. The event, hosted by Congressman Gregory K. Meeks (D-NY) and entitled, The State of Housing in Black America Educate, Empower, Motivate served as the launching pad for NAREB's aggressive, multi-pronged approach to rebuilding Black wealth through homeownership and real estate investment.
What NAREB has anecdotally known and can now pinpoint are the systemic blockages and traps that for decades thwarted the right of Black Americans to become homeowners, said Donnell Williams, NAREB president. Latest U.S. Census data reported the Black homeownership rate at 40.6% compared to the non-Hispanic White rate of 73.1%, a 32.5% gap.
The report states that the role federal housing policies have played is largely responsible for stifling Black homeownership growth. The reality of staggeringly low homeownership rates during a period of overall economic growth indicates that there are other powerful forces adversely affecting Black Americans' pursuit of homeownership. The result is a decline that widens the gap in net worth between Blacks and non-Hispanic Whites. The report further warns that a recession will likely push the rate of Black homeownership below 40%, approaching levels not experienced since the 1950s.
Congressman Meeks kicked off the two-panel forum by announcing to the more than 500 people packed into the SRO gathering that he would be introducing the American Dream Down Payment Savings Plan. The legislation will help with a home purchase in a way similar to the 529 college savings plan. He applauded NAREB's advocacy efforts and urged the audience to keep being vigilant.
Expert panelists James H. Carr, Coleman A. Young Endowed Chair and co-author of NAREB's 2019 SHIBA report; Maurice Jourdain-Earl, Managing Director, ComplianceTech; Nikitra Bailey, Executive Vice President, Center for Responsible Lending, and Mark Alston, owner, Alston and Associates Mortgage Co. followed speaking in support of NAREB's three-point public policy agenda that covers rethinking credit scoring and restrictive underwriting; eliminating loan level price adjustments (LLPAs) and risk-based pricing; and expanding down payment assistance programs.
The second panel focused on solutions to attract the 1.7 million non-homeowning Black millennials with incomes of $100,000 or more to consider the wealth building aspects of a home purchase or real estate investment.
The audience heard from innovative public officials, entertainers, a sports figure and a NAREB Realtist, including LaTisha Grant, Broker/Owner of Houston-based TAS Realty Group and convener of NAREB's new House Then the Car initiative; Stephen K. Benjamin, Mayor, Columbia, SC; Ronald Ronnie DeVoe, entertainer, entrepreneur, founder of DeVoe Real Estate Group, Atlanta, GA; Will Jawando, At-Large Councilman, Montgomery County, MD; Bobby Simmons, former NBA star, entrepreneur, founder of the Bobby Simmons Rising Stars Foundation, and Waka Flocka Flame, rapper, entrepreneur and investor.
As the report indicates, racial discrimination is often asserted to be the principal unexplained factor for the low homeownership rate and for good reason. Black homeownership has historically been built on a foundation largely consisting of various forms of predatory, high-cost, and unsustainable home purchase loan products and other deceptive and discriminatory housing market practices.
The report details, while discrimination has played a major role in denying affordable and sustainable homeownership access to Black households, discrimination by individual private market actors is insufficient to fully explain the gap between Black and non-Hispanic homeownership rates. Federal policies are, at least, if not more, responsible for limiting Black homeownership.
NAREB intends to work on numerous fronts to close the wealth gap. I have served notice by issuing a cease and desist order along with reaching out to organizational and faith-based leaders to join our fight. Homeownership is our right as citizens and not a privilege, Williams added.