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Challenges Remain When Chasing the American Dream

Despite a recent climb in homeownership by Black Americans, new data shows that Black mortgage applicants are denied at a rate 80% higher than their white peers.

Starting in the 1930s, a practice called "redlining" widely denied mortgages in neighborhoods deemed "hazardous," which were predominantly non-white. Though outlawed in 1968 as part of the Fair Housing Act, homes in formerly redlined areas continue to have lower values, and this analysis shows continued mortgage inequity.

The scars of redlining are still visible in the housing market today, researchers at Zillow reported.

"At a time when racism is at the front of many Americans' minds, the disparity in mortgage rate denials is yet another reminder that the housing market—and country—have not done enough to address inequities and heal the scars from an unjust past," said Zillow Economist Joshua Clark. "The mortgage approval process is rooted in a racially unjust history that persists to make homeownership a far more difficult dream to achieve for many black Americans. Owning a home is a major way to generate, keep, and pass down wealth, and unequal access to mortgages only serves to further entrench inequality."

Based on demographic data from the 2017 US Census Bureau's American Community Survey to determine the racial population makeup for ZIP codes, the analysis found that all applicants living in predominately Black neighborhoods are more likely to be denied a loan. That rate increases for people of color.

Although there has been progress in increasing the Black homeownership rate, a Zillow analysis of the most-recent Home Mortgage Disclosure data suggests work remains to fully address the disparities the Black population faces.

Compared to 46% of white buyers, 59% of Black homebuyers reported that they are concerned about qualifying for a mortgage in the first place, according to Zillow survey data. And while mortgage denial rates overall have fallen over the past decade, inconsistencies remain along racial lines.

While the Black homeownership rate has increased to 44%—its highest level since 2012— it still lags far behind the overall homeownership rate of 65.3%. Values of homes owned by black people are also significantly behind, typically worth 17.6% less than the overall American home value of $218,2034. According to the latest Zillow Housing Aspirations Report (ZHAR), 63% of black respondents and 58% of white respondents say owning a home is necessary to live "The American Dream."

One step toward solving this problem is reforming credit scoring systems (including allowing rent payments to be positively reflected in credit scores), which would expand access to capital for underserved communities of color. Other possibilities include expanding funding for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Fair Housing education and enforcement efforts or further legislation like that proposed in New York, designed to take aim at lingering inequalities within the housing market as a whole.

About Author: Christina Hughes Babb

Christina Hughes Babb is a reporter for DS News and MReport. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, she has been a reporter, editor, and publisher in the Dallas area for more than 15 years. During her 10 years at Advocate Media and Dallas Magazine, she published thousands of articles covering local politics, real estate, development, crime, the arts, entertainment, and human interest, among other topics. She has won two national Mayborn School of Journalism Ten Spurs awards for nonfiction, and has penned pieces for Texas Monthly, Salon.com, Dallas Observer, Edible, and the Dallas Morning news, among others.
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