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Minorities increasingly priced out of housing market

The shrinking pool of affordable housing is felt most acutely by minorities, according to a Redfin report. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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It’s getting harder and harder for middle-class families to afford housing in the U.S.

A new report from the real estate brokerage Redfin shows that in the nation’s 30 biggest metro areas, the number of home listings middle-class families can afford has dropped by 32 percent since 2012.

That shrinking pool of affordable housing is felt most acutely by minorities.

Samantha Doyle has been paying $1,700 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in Washington, D.C. After more than six months of searching for a home she could afford, she said she’d almost given up.

“So, the fact that I could afford this home says a lot, because most homes like this I wouldn’t be able to afford,” Doyle said as she walked through the brick three-bedroom row house she recently purchased in Anacostia.

At $313,000, Doyle said she was lucky to find a three-bedroom in Anacostia, a predominantly African-American neighborhood in the eastern part of the city, that is slowly gentrifying.

Across the rest of city, median sales prices just hit a 10-year high of $419,000.

“That’s kind of what brought me to Anacostia,” Doyle said, “is that there’s nowhere else to go. On the other side of the river is the last frontier in terms of D.C.”

For minority homebuyers, that last frontier is shrinking across the country. According to the Redfin report, just 18 percent of new home listings were affordable for median-income Hispanic families, compared to 14 percent for median-income African-Americans. Both rates were down 11 percentage points from 2012.

This is compared to 30 percent affordable for those earning the median income for white households.

“I think it’s important to look at this from a fairness perspective,” said Minneapolis City Council Member Alondra Cano.

As housing costs rise faster than wages, minorities are being priced out of their own neighborhoods, often after decades of investment.  

“A lot of these communities of color have used their cultural talents and skills to revitalize parts of city that people saw as disposable or scary or unwanted,” said Cano.

“They have made those commercial corridors thrive again. Even when the city wasn’t interested in investing in those corridors.”

In addition to the affordability gap, mortgages are also harder to get.

“That means that lenders are taking a lot less risk,” said Alanna McCargo, co-director of the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute.

“[Banks are taking] less than half the credit risk they were taking in 2001, and we consider 2001 of period of normal lending standards,” McCargo said.

While the lending bar may be higher for everyone, for minorities, who McCargo notes often have fewer assets and lower credit scores, getting a mortgage loan has become even harder.

“Right now loans that are being made in the United States are the most pristine quality loans that we’ve seen … ever,” McCargo remarked.

According to the Center’s statistics, in 2001 the national mortgage default rate stood at 12 percent. It jumped up to 16.5 percent during the recession, but now sits at just five percent.  

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