Housing gap between white and black homeowners still isn’t closing

Historically low mortgage rates made it so that the housing market was able to stay strong during the pandemic. Prices are high, homes are selling quickly. Things are moving along like clockwork.

But not for everybody.

It has been 53 years since the Fair Housing Act passed through Congress, and yet, the gap between white homeownership and Black homeownership is still just as wide.

This is according to data provided by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) as part of their second annual report that examined racial gaps in homeownership, both nationwide and state-to-state.

According to the Federal Reserve, the net worth of a homeowner was $255,000, which is 40 times that of a renter. If you combine that with the NAR data that in the last decade, Black Americans have seen the largest dip in home ownership rates, this paints a stark picture. As the wealth gains of homeowners increase, the number of Blacks owning homes has decreased.

It doesn’t help that financial institutions are denying mortgages to Black prospective home buyers 2 ½ times more than prospective white buyers, according to NAR.

Blacks also are more likely to have student loan debt, which impacts the ability to save enough money for a down payment.

With the rise in home prices, coupled with it becoming harder and harder for lower- and middle-income earners to be able to come up with that down payment, more potential buyers are being priced out of the market. And because of the wealth gap in America, potential Black homebuyers are making up a significant portion of the cohort who struggle to afford a home.

It is a vicious cycle that has been rotating for more than five decades now.

“We need to find solutions for everyone to have the same opportunities for home ownership,” Nadia Evangelou, senior economist and director of forecasting at NAR and one of the authors of the report told the Philadelphia Inquirer, recently.

The Biden administration is pushing for a tax credit of up to $15,0000 for first-time homebuyers to try and help make homes more affordable, but NAR also wants to push Congress to consider incentives for builders and developers to create more affordable housing units and increase the supply of homes available that is at critical lows nationwide.

In 2019, the white homeownership rate nationally was nearly 70%. South Carolina, Mississippi and Delaware had the highest rate of white home ownership at 78% each.

But even in states where the white homeownership was the lowest, the rate was still approximately 50%.

There was a stark difference for Black homeownership where, as nationally, the rate was just 42% in 2019. The highest rate of Black homeownership was in Puerto Rico (70%), indicating that decades old redlining of neighborhoods still impacts the 50 U.S. states, making it harder for Blacks to purchase homes outside of lower-income neighborhoods.

Maryland (52%) and South Carolina (52%) were the only states to cross the 50% plateau for black homeownership. And the states with the lowest rates of Black home ownership were North Dakota (5%), Wyoming (18%) and Montana (20%)

The national median price of existing homes was $309,800, a 40% increase from 2015, and while that number has gone up nationally, just 43% of Black Americans can afford to buy a home, compared to 63% of white Americans.

According to NAR, whites bought 81% of all homes purchased in 2019; Blacks bought just 7%.

And while other ethnic groups have also struggled at times to purchase homes, NAR found that during the pandemic, as mortgage rates plummeted, slightly more Asian, Latino, Hispanic and Pacific Islander buyers purchased homes than prior to the pandemic.

However, the share of Black homebuyers remained stagnant, even with the historically low mortgage interest rates.

“This data reinforces the need to implement key policy initiatives NAR developed in concert with the Urban Institute and the National Association of Real Estate Brokers to address the Black homeownership gap,” NAR President Charlie Oppler, a REALTOR® from Franklin Lakes, N.J., and the CEO of Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International said in a press release. “Specifically, this five-point plan developed in 2019 calls on the nation to: advance policy solutions at the local level; tackle housing supply constraints and affordability; promote an equitable and accessible housing finance system; provide further outreach and counseling initiatives for renters and mortgage-ready millennials; and focus on sustainable homeownership and preservation initiatives.”

NAR used data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to study homeownership and affordability by race. The REALTORS® also conducted a survey of 8,200 homebuyers from July 2019 through June 2020.