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Posted: 2018-12-04 14:33:24

November 29, 2018; Next City

Recent media reports have documented the widening gap between black and white homeownership. Nationally, the black homeownership rate is 41 percent—nearly unchanged from 50 years ago, when the federal Fair Housing Act banned racial discrimination in that sector. That compares to the 71 percent of white adults who own homes. The gap is even wider now than it was in 1900, as was documented in a Zillow study released in April.

And, as Lisa Rice—president of the National Fair Housing Alliance—notes, where black families have made gains, this has required political struggle. “Areas with high levels of African-American homeownership generally have very active fair-housing and social-justice activity. You will find a history of active organizing and engaging,” Rice explains.  However, the struggle isn’t just about the level of homeownership. A new study released by the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution finds that neighborhoods with high levels of black homeownership are penalized.

In the average US metropolitan area, the study says, homes in neighborhoods where the population is at least 50 percent black are valued at roughly half the price of homes in communities with no black people. Majority-black neighborhoods have 3.2 million owner-occupied homes worth an estimated $609 billion—but those buildings would collectively be worth $156 billion more if race did not impact housing values. In other words, structural racism reduces housing wealth for these black homeowners by an average of $48,000 per family.

“Much of the research on implicit bias focuses on individuals’ perception of an oppressed class. These biases carry over into places where there are high concentrations of black people [for instance],” write authors Andre Perry, Jonathan Rothwell, and David Harshbarger. “The value of assets—buildings, schools, leadership, and land itself—are inextricably linked to the perceptions [others have] of black people.”

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