Experts Say Legacy of Discriminatory Policies and Practices Fuel Racial Disparities In Home Ownership Rates

by September 19, 2018

Washington, DC — Decades of discriminatory lending practices and government policies have created barriers for African Americans seeking to become homeowners, according to leading housing experts participating in a September 13 forum on fair housing, which was hosted by the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Legislative Conference.

Fifty-years after the Fair Housing Act was enacted, panelists noted the continued disparity in homeownership rates – 41.6 percent for Blacks, compared to 72.9 percent for Whites – caused by legacy of discrimination. Blacks couldn’t fully enjoy benefits of the GI Bill, suffered “redlining” that prevented them from buying homes in white communities, and were charged higher fees and rates on their mortgages.

“Blacks have experienced housing discrimination that has limited financial growth and fueled the wealth gap that exists today,” said NAREB President Jeffrey Hicks. “Far too many people of color missed out on the American Dream of Homeownership, and a pathway to prosperity that has been denied to many Black families. That must change.”

Mr. Hicks moderated the lively forum discussion on remedies for housing discrimination. The panel included Lisa Rice, President and CEO National Fair Housing Alliance; James H. Carr, Coleman A. Young Endowed Chair and Professor in Urban Affairs at Wayne State University; Visiting Fellow with the Roosevelt Institute; Mark Alston, Owner, Skyway Realty and Alston & Associates Mortgage Co., Chair, Public Affairs Committee NAREB; Maurice Jourdain-Earl, Managing Director and Co-Founder ComplianceTech; and Alanna McCargo, Vice President, Housing Finance Policy Urban Institute.

Richard Rothstein, who authored, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America, said in his keynote address that segregated neighborhoods are not an accident, but “the result of laws and policies passed by local, state, and federal governments that promoted discriminatory patterns that continue to encourage housing segregation.”

There was a collective call for substantial housing finance reform, including charting a new course for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Today, NAREB announced at the forum three guiding principles to lead that reform:

* Promote homeownership as a high priority public policy with support for the mortgage interest tax deduction; creation of a tax-advantaged first-time homebuyer down payment savings vehicle; and preservation of the affordable 30-year fixed rate mortgage.

* Create “loan level equality,” or the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions; prevent biases or privileges in the mortgage origination process, and ensure consistent pricing and terms for similarly situated borrowers, with no penalties or higher prices based on neighborhoods, zip codes or census-tracts.

* Create a federal accountability structure for the expanding non-depository lender market that will monitor their origination, pricing and lending practices to ensure practices are fair, equitable and non-discriminatory.

“We need reform that can help families overcome barriers to homeownership,” said Mr. Hicks, noting that NAREB commissioned two studies released today documenting the impact of discrimination and the need for significant reform – “Fifty Years of Struggle” and the “2018 State of Housing in Black America,” Both studies were by Mr. Carr, Michela Zonta, and Steven P. Hornburg. Ms. Zonta is a senior policy analyst for Housing and Consumer Finance Policy at the Center for American Progress; and Mr. Hornburg is a housing finance and policy consultant, with over 20 years of experience in national housing policy and mortgage finance.

Their 2018 State of Housing in Black America takes aims at the flaws in the Fair Housing Act. “…The Fair Housing Act, even with its many amendments over the years, has not adequately addressed discrimination in the housing market,” the study states. “For this reason, the National Fair Housing Alliance continues each year to estimate the occurrence of 4 million instances of discrimination with only a handful ever being challenged.”

Moreover, the study says Federal regulators have reinforced the negative impacts of decades of discrimination “through inadequate enforcement of anti-discrimination laws and inadequate oversight of lending practices to address the unique lending challenges experienced by Blacks due to decades of unequal and unfair access to mortgage credit and homeownership.”

“Fifty Years of Struggle,” which depicts the impact of the Kerner Report and the Fair Housing Act, says, “The fact that the Black homeownership rate today is unchanged from its level in 1968 is testament to the power of convert acts of racial bias… the United States will never achieve its promise of a truly integrated and equitable society until the structural impediments to economic justice are torn down. That will require an honest, concerted, and consistent effort by Congress, the White House, and the courts.”

The National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) was formed in 1947 to secure the right to equal housing opportunities regardless of race, creed or color. NAREB has advocated for legislation and supported or instigated legal challenges that ensure fair housing, sustainable homeownership, and access to credit for Black Americans along with promoting access to business opportunity for Black real estate professionals. NAREB annually publishes The State of Housing in Black America report. For more details, visit www.nareb.com

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