I grew up in an era when homeownership showed you were a success.
How my father, with 10 mouths to feed, managed to save enough to buy a home in Auburn-Gresham in 1968 is beyond me.
But he did. And so did two of his brothers.
They passed down their desire for that tangible piece of the American dream to their children.
But 50 years after the Fair Housing Act was signed into law — a federal law that was supposed to enable blacks and other minorities to buy real estate wherever they chose — the level of homeownership for blacks still lags far behind that for whites.
“Only 38.9 percent of African-Americans owned homes in the Chicago area in 2015,” compared with 74 percent of whites, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard’s report “The State of the Nation’s Housing (2017).”
In 2016, the black-white homeownership gap widened to 29.7 percentage points — the largest disparity since World War II.
That huge gap has remained the same since the days my father scrapped up enough money to buy a modest home on Aberdeen Street.
That seems totally implausible. But Courtney Jones, president of Dearborn Realtist Board, the oldest African American real estate trade association in the country, assures me that is the case.
“A tremendous amount of racism still exists in the whole home lending process and, that is why so many banks are still being sued and are losing lawsuits around redlining,” Jones says.
Next weekend — on May 26 — the Dearborn Realtist Board will host a “Community Wealth Building Day” at Malcolm X College to help African-Americans learn how to break through the barriers to homeownership. The group will bring together experts in the field, including mortgage lenders, for workshops designed to educate potential home-buyers on every facet of real estate transactions.
“We’re going to bring in all the tools and resources to empower the black community to build wealth and own real estate,” Jones says.
This isn’t just a matter of providing the tools for blacks to be able to purchase a home but also to be able maintain it and see it increase in value and provide something that can be passed on to another generation.
This isn’t the only effort to boost homeownership. Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas credits a massive public outreach to homeowners for the record low number of properties that ended up being available for tax-buyers at the most recent Cook County tax sale. Of the 52,637 properties that had been advertised in March in advance of the tax sale, 33,321 were offered at the sale, and just 10,970 were sold thanks to the effort to warn homeowners to get current on their property taxes.
“The taxes were sold on the fewest number of properties in more than 20 years,” according to Pappas.
But there’s bad news regarding the tax sale, too: Some parts of the South Side and the West Side, as well as the south suburbs, continue to make up the bulk of properties sold for taxes.
“It’s bad because those persons should have been given a longer amount of time to pay, and the due date should not be nine months,” Pappas says. “The due date should go back to what it was” — 13 months. “People need more time to pay. Of the 10,000 that were sold, 3,500 are [for taxes] under $1,000. That is ludicrous that people’s taxes are being sold for $1,000. One thousand dollars in these communities is a lot of money to pay. They just need more time.”
The roadblocks a black person might face when applying for a home loan is another factor in the homeownership gap.
In 2002, black families were paying the same costs as a white family for the same loan. But because of the housing implosion, banks are using a risk-cost model that is credit-based, Jones points out.
“Folks with a little lower credit score are being charged more for the same loan,” he says. “Our national organization and its local chapters are lobbying in D.C. for an alternative credit-scoring model. How can people pay $1,500 for rent and can’t pay $1,200 for a mortgage?
“The messaging now around homeownership is that it is too risky. And people are afraid. We are really committed to breaking down that barrier.”
As they say: “When you know better, you do better.” Don’t let this opportunity get away.
IF YOU GO
Admission is free for Community Wealth Building Day 2018, being held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 26 at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Jackson, Chicago.
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