How to tackle inequalities and discrimination in homeownership

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As nationwide protests continue against inequality and police brutality sparked by the murder of George Floyd, it is more important than ever to reflect and work to change systematic racism in the United States

Unfortunately, there is still a lot of work to be done in the area of ​​housing. According to a study by the Urban Institute, from 2000 to 2015, the homeownership rate among African Americans fell to levels not seen since the 1960s, before racial discrimination was illegal. There is now a 30 point gap between African American (42%) and white (72%) ownership levels.

This may be due in part to a racial wealth gap, created by hundreds of years of discrimination, with African Americans earning only 60% of what whites earn, according to a study by the Century Foundation. This income inequality translates into further missed opportunities for wealth, as homes are an important financial asset.

But it’s not just wealth and income inequalities that prevent African Americans from owning homeowners. According to the Century Foundation study, African Americans benefit from more expensive and riskier loans, so that in 2006, 53.6% of them received a high-priced loan, compared with 17.7%. white people. The subprime mortgage crisis then hit them disproportionately and, according to the Urban Institute, homeownership has fallen 5% since 2010 due to the housing crisis. The Century Foundation study also found that African Americans continue to face discrimination when searching for housing, such as showing them less housing than white buyers.

Because of these issues, the National Association of Realtors began work to address housing inequalities and residential segregation, and recently joined the United States Chamber of Commerce’s Equal Opportunities Initiative- United. “With continued residential segregation contributing to many problems in our society, NAR recognizes that this nation cannot achieve true economic equality without first achieving true equality in housing. Our commitment to this cause and to fair housing has only grown stronger in response to recent tragedies in America, ”NAR CEO Bob Goldberg said in a press release detailing these efforts.

NAR has also started to implement its new Fair Housing Action Plan, which emphasizes aresponsibility, culture change and training with the goal of increasing home ownership for African Americans. Actions to be taken include increasing access to down payment assistance, strengthening the Federal Housing Administration’s loan assistance program, and building more housing in areas of opportunity.

The association is also committed to better educating its employees and members about discrimination and prejudice within the industry. A vehicle for this is a partnership between NAR and the Institute of perception, a research consortium working to improve discrimination in the workplace. The association noted that “the automatic and instantaneous association of stereotypes with particular groups can cause us to unfairly treat those who are different from us, despite our best intentions and often without our knowledge,” in a press release on the new initiative. “Perception then applies these concepts to the day-to-day work of real estate agents and suggests strategies to work around prejudices in order to convey respect, ensure fairness and improve business relationships. Another vehicle that agents and brokers can use to learn more about their own implicit biases is Implicit of the project association tests by Harvard University.

In order to implement lasting change, strong partnerships between professional groups and the support and guidance of local associations will be essential. “By working with our federation of state and local chambers and association partners, we can better understand the challenges facing specific communities and help find lasting solutions across the country,” said the president of the Chamber of Commerce, Suzanne P. Clark.

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