A way to home ownership for minorities

Angela Glover Blackwell

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

Kai Ryssdal: We've been taking some time on the broadcast this week to explore the economic challenges facing African Americans. Today, the housing market. Even though the Great Recession of 2008-2009 and the real-estate crash that went along with it are fading, slowly, in the rear view mirror, African-Americans are still at a greater disadvantage than the rest of the population.

Commentator Angela Glover Blackwell says that's in part because of how they were able to get into the housing market in the first place.


Angela Glover Blackwell: Compared to whites, blacks and Latinos were about two-and-a-half times more likely to receive high-cost, high-interest, subprime loans. Nearly half of all home loans in poor communities of color were subprime. It's not really a surprise that that led to lots of foreclosures.

And there's a snowball effect. Each foreclosure brings down the price of every other house on the block.

Add insult to injury: investors from outside the community are gobbling up the vacant homes. Take the minority community of North Minneapolis. Local people want to buy these homes and renovate them, but they just can't compete against outside investors who pay cash -- sometimes buying properties sight unseen at auctions. So, we're back to square one, or maybe even square zero.

The nation needs a sustainable way to make home ownership work for the people who have been shut out for generations. Low-cost, low-interest government loans and first-time home buyer plans already exist. They're a good start. But what else?

We need to help local nonprofits buy and rehab foreclosed homes. That'll keep entire neighborhoods from becoming run down. Then, these houses should be sold with stipulations that keep them affordable from owner to owner for decades. Such efforts are underway in cities like Oakland, Calif., Duluth, Minn., and Dover, Del.

But it's a Consumer Financial Protection Agency that would be the best way to both deal with the scale of the current challenge and lay the groundwork for more sustainable home ownership growth for people of color.

How?

Mainly, by ensuring that loans are explained in clear, understandable language and applicants get the best rates they qualify for. If the agency can do this, it will help level the playing field.

By 2050, people of color will be the majority in America. Helping that majority become a stable middle class will require broader, more sustainable home ownership opportunities. That's a dream to believe in.

RYSSDAL: Angela Glover Blackwell is the founder and Chief Operating Officer of PolicyLink in Washington D.C.

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