The nationwide homeownership rate is up, increasing to 65.1 percent in Q4 2019 from 62.9 percent in Q2 of 2016.
So, what’s the problem?
According to a recently released report from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), Snapshot of Race & Home Buying in America, data shows racial inequality is still prevalent in real estate, highlighted by lagging minority homeownership rates.
Where do the homeownership rates stand for each race? For non-Hispanic White Americans, the rate has stayed above 71 percent from 2016 to 2019. For Black Americans during that same time period, however, the rate has been above 41 percent—a 30-point difference. Only slightly better, the Hispanic American homeownership rate has been above 45 percent between the same time period, and gaining ground is the Asian American homeownership rate, which has been above 53 percent.
Where Challenges Arise
Each racial group has its own set of obstacles. The Black/African American population, for example, has several factors impeding their ability to purchase a home. This is shown through their buying trends—25 percent compromised on their home price and 22 percent purchased a multigenerational home, signaling these investments are more long-term in hopes of making the money stretch as far as possible.
Other obstacles for this group?
- They typically had over $38,000 in student loan debt.
- Sixty-two percent were rejected due to their debt-to-income ratio.
- Thirteen percent were rejected for a mortgage loan application.
“I’ve personally noticed that a lot of African Americans have student debt because we’re getting degrees at a larger rate than in the past. More African Americans are graduating and chasing the American Dream only to find out that the student loan debt is a hindrance, giving them less purchasing power,” says Vickie Lobo, a REALTOR® with RE/MAX Champions in California. “The result of that pushes them into needing more affordable housing, which then leads to the problem of chronically low inventory. Also, affording these down payments after getting a degree is difficult. Buyers struggle to save down payments.”
The Hispanic/Latino/Mexican/Puerto Rican population faces similar challenges to a lesser degree, with the exception of credit score-related rejections—a whopping 50 percent could not receive a loan due to a low score. Student loan debt is also a challenge here—they typically owed $25,000. A quarter of the population also had to make some sacrifices regarding home price. Right behind the Black population, at 18 percent, the Hispanic segment also tends to seek out multigenerational homes.
“The numbers don’t lie. I have seen an increase in the Hispanic community when it comes to buying homes,” says Jacqueline Balza, broker of record for Inspired Dream Real Estate in New Jersey. “The regulations by HUD and conventional mortgage lenders make it difficult for undocumented ITIN and DACA recipients to be able to qualify for first-time homebuyer programs. Depending on their status, they qualify to buy a house, but they can only purchase property with higher money down programs that have higher interest rates due to their immigration status. If we educate the community more as to how to obtain financing and what needs to be done to qualify them, we would have a bigger turnaround for minority buyers.”
While the Asian/Pacific Islander population is catching up to the White homeownership rate, there are still obstacles that need to be addressed. The report found that in terms of student loan debt, the burden is nearly as high as Black homeowners, as they are holding onto a $38,000 balance. But with this segment, it’s not credit score or their debt-to-income ratio that’s keeping them from purchasing a home; it’s not having enough saved for a down payment.
“Homeownership is the foundation for the American dream; access to housing is access to opportunity,” says 2020 Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA) National President James Huang. “The fact that the AAPI homeownership rate continues to lag behind the national average shows that, from improving language access for limited English proficient individuals to reforming credit scoring models, there is still much that must be done to empower millions of mortgage-ready individuals as we work towards our goal of achieving housing equity for all.”
Action Can Lead to Progress
On Jan. 8, NAR released its Fair Housing Action Plan, which strategizes how the industry can advance fair housing protections and eliminate racial homeownership bias, focusing primarily on educating its members and consumers.
“NAR’s Code of Ethics and its adherence to fair housing are the cornerstones of our commitment as REALTORS®,” said Bob Goldberg, NAR CEO, during the Jan. 8 meeting. “With this new plan, we will see more robust education focusing on core fair housing criteria, unconscious bias and how the actions of REALTORS® impact communities. A partnership with government officials and fair housing advocates will allow us to further promote equality as we continue to work to diversify our industry.”
While progress is being made, many industry practitioners feel some form of racial bias will always be present, and being proactive is key to ensuring all consumers have a fair chance at homeownership.
“Racial inequality is a problem and sometimes feels like it will always be a problem, so we’ve become creative in getting around it in real estate,” says Balza. “When it comes to buying and selling, as a REALTOR®, I do my job knowing there are challenges every day and we can’t ignore the race issue. We have to deal with it head on and pray for positive results.”
All agree education and providing the right resources is a step in the right direction.
“As a Black REALTOR®, I know there are challenges, so I tread lightly when presenting information,” says Lobo.
“The study is illuminating in showing the continued disparities in homeownership amongst people of color across the country. Another factor that is important to consider is socioeconomics, which also play a large role in homeownership rates,” says Ayo Haynes, lead agent and associate broker for The Haynes Velasquez Team at Halstead Real Estate in New York City. “It is important to help educate those in all socioeconomic brackets about the ways to build wealth—one way being through real estate. Hands-on, real-life education will help change housing statistics for people of color for generations to come.”