Everyone should have the opportunity to own a home. Homeownership has been a means to create generational wealth, whereby past generations who were able to purchase a home transferred financial gains to future generations. In some cases where homeownership was multi-generational, those financial gains were compounded, creating even more wealth for fortunate benefactors.
Unfortunately, minority groups have been unable to capitalize on the benefits of multi-generational homeownership to the same degree as white homeowners.
In 2021, the homeownership level for White Americans was just shy of 73 percent, while Black American homeownership was only at 44 percent. Homeownership rates for other minority groups also lag behind White homeowners. Asian Americans’ homeownership was almost 63 percent — an all-time high — while Hispanic Americans were at 50 percent for homeownership.
From 2011 to 2021, Black Americans only saw an increase in homeownership of less than half a percent, while Asian Americans and Hispanic Americans increased by 5 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
Improving minority homeownership is an important issue that deserves attention. Several federal laws have been passed since the Civil War to improve Black Americans’ lives, including the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Throughout history, several barriers have prevented minorities from owning homes, including discrimination in the housing market and lack of access to affordable financing.
Most recently, Black Americans have suffered undervalued appraisals when refinancing and turn to “whitewashing” (removing any items in a home during an appraisal that would signal the owner’s ethnicity) to improve appraisal values. All have led to very little growth for increases in Black homeownership.
The struggle for minority ownership has only made small gains since the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Minority homebuyers still report discrimination issues, such as steering to certain areas and much higher rates of being denied a mortgage. Black and Hispanic buyers experience denial rates of 20 and 15 percent when obtaining a mortgage. Compare that to White and Asian buyers, who only are denied 10 to 11 percent of the time.
Homeownership can have many benefits, including building wealth and promoting community stability. Policymakers, REALTORS, and lenders need to work together to address these barriers and encourage greater access to homeownership for all Americans.
More minorities working in the real estate industry could also help increase minority homeownership rates. Locally, we need to see many more minority REALTORS, mortgage lenders, and appraisers. This could help minorities feel more comfortable starting the home-buying process.
In addition, promoting the value of homeownership in schools and teaching kids the steps to achieve owning a home is another way to increase minority homeownership. Some of these programs already exist in other areas, where stories emerge from students who said they didn’t even know homeownership was possible until they learned about it while in school.
Not everyone can handle the responsibility of owning a home and the requirements that go with it. Still, through homebuyer assistance programs, government policy, and education, homeownership can become a reality for more American minorities.
Brian Toohey is the chief executive officer for the Columbia Board of REALTORS