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5 Ways to Bridge a Racial Homeownership Gap

A new report by the Urban Institute has given insights into five common sense solutions to increase homeownership rates among African-Americans. Emerging from an earlier roundtable discussion at Urban Institute that examined the causes of the racial homeownership gap for this demographic, the report examined each of these five areas for potential solutions and future policy interventions.

According to the report, progress toward bridging this gap will involve several approaches.

Advancing Policy Solutions at a Local Level

Initiatives under this guideline included responsibly expanding small-dollar mortgages for purchases and renovations as well as reforming local land use, building codes, zoning laws, and regulations. The report also touched on strengthening access to and capacity of homeownership Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) networks and improving and investing in community development corporations' (CDCs) capacity and partnerships at a local level. The report suggested that removing discriminatory terms in homeowners' association (HOA), condominium owners' associations (COA), and planned unit development (PUD) deeds on single-family residential units and expanding the reach of Housing Finance Agency (HFA) programs while considering property tax relief for low- and moderate-income taxpayers would go a long way in bridging the gap.

Tackling Housing Supply Constraints and Affordability

Housing supply and affordability were one of the key areas in need of reform to bridge the racial homeownership gap according to the report. Solutions in this area included increasing federal efforts to improve the existing supply of affordable housing and make investments directed toward historically segregated and devalued neighborhoods, as well as expanding production of alternate affordable housing units such as manufactured homes. This solution would also be strengthened through improving home preservation, financing, and credit underwriting, as well as overhauling or improving rehab purchase lending programs.

Promoting an Equitable and Accessible Housing Finance System

Increasing visibility, access, and types of down payment assistance program were key to making the housing finance system more accessible to potential African-American homeowners according to the report. Apart from this, the report urged policymakers to strengthen the requirements that banks serve all communities in their market and consider expansion of obligation to other parts of the system. Additionally, improving and expanding financial education and homeownership preparation for renters would also help in increasing the homeownership rates among African-Americans.

Outreach and Counseling for Renters and Mortgage-Ready Millennials

Apart from exploring more options for use of fintech to advance the understanding and access to homeownership for millennials, the report also listed revitalizing and improving tax credit incentives for renters who want to become owners as well as expanding programs that automate saving for down payments/reserves and increased competition in credit evaluation as potential solutions.

Focus on Sustainable Homeownership and Preservation

A strong post-purchase counseling framework as well as promoting healthy mortgage servicing relationships and loss mitigation options would aid in creating a sustainable plan to increase homeownership rates among this demographic, the report revealed. It also said that building tools that would help in creating early warning displacement triggers, as well as an increased focus on the intergenerational transfers of wealth, estate planning, and undivided property, would help more Black Americans take a step towards sustainable homeownership.

About Author: Radhika Ojha

Radhika Ojha is an independent writer and copy-editor, and a reporter for DS News. She is a graduate of the University of Pune, India, where she received her B.A. in Commerce with a concentration in Accounting and Marketing and an M.A. in Mass Communication. Upon completion of her masters degree, Ojha worked at a national English daily publication in India (The Indian Express) where she was a staff writer in the cultural and arts features section. Ojha, also worked as Principal Correspondent at HT Media Ltd and at Honeywell as an executive in corporate communications. She and her husband currently reside in Houston, Texas.

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