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African American home ownership rates hint at persistent racism

When the Fair Housing Act of 1968 became law, its purpose was to correct racial discrimination that affected people’s ability to acquire housing in Michigan and nationwide. Despite good intentions, the law has had small effect on home ownership rates for African Americans. Currently, they have a homeownership rate of 42.3 percent compared to 41.6 percent in 1970.

During the boom in homeownership before the housing bubble and financial collapse, African Americans made gains that have since been lost. About 50 percent of this demographic bought homes in the early 2000s, but subprime mortgages that involved higher interest rates enabled much of this buying. According to research by a sociology professor, African Americans and Latinos took out subprime mortgages 2.4 times more often than white borrowers. The research revealed cases of African American families that had higher earnings than white buyers but were denied access to mortgages with lower interest rates.

Default was typically certain for subprime borrowers once their interest rates went up. The subsequent damage to their credit scores has kept them out of the housing market. The restricted inventory currently available on the housing market has also driven up prices and required higher down payments from competing buyers. The greater household wealth of whites typically means that they have the ability to outbid other buyers. For these reasons, African American homeownership continues to stagnant.

Lenders and housing cooperatives have a legal obligation to eliminate discriminatory practices. An attorney familiar with the laws about fair housing and the ADA might aid an organization with the development of its policies and practices. Legal guidance might allow an organization to avoid discriminating against people because of their race, religion, disability, sex or age and thereby reduce the chances of experiencing legal challenges.