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Closing the Racial Wealth Gap

New York City has lost thousands of Black homeowners over the last decade, and could lose even more as the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic accelerates.

They said 'Where'd you get the money?' I said 'I worked for it.' And I showed them my bonus checks and then they started to believe me.

In the 10 years since the financial crisis, New York City has seen a huge drop in the number of Black homeowners: in Queens alone, the City lost more than 20,000 Black homeowners between 2005 and 2017. Nationally, Black homeownership has fared no better — seeing a precipitous decline across the country.

Originated Loans for Black Households

Source: Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data for 2007 & 2017

2007

2017

Queens

2,023

720

Brooklyn

1,742

881

In response to the loss of Black homeownership in New York City, we're developing a slate of transformative pilot programs to find new pathways to grow homeownership among New York's Black communities, and to identify and highlight existing organizations and resources. But the challenge is great, especially in light of historical and systemic racism.

People should not think they can get away with depriving or stealing the equity of African American homeowners.

A legacy of racist housing practices, especially redlining and the predatory lending that led to the Great Recession, have made it impossible for many Black and Hispanic families across the United States to have the opportunity to tap into the equity-building benefits of homeownership. In fact, Black and Hispanic families have accumulated significantly less wealth today than their White and Asian counterparts — what is known as the racial wealth gap.

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Nadine, Canarsie

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The Racial Wealth Gap Between Black And White Families

12

Times

20

Times

Before

1984

After

1984

Racism, steering, and residential segregation also played a large role in creating the wealth gap. Before 1968, Black homeowners were kept out of all but the least desirable neighborhoods. After 1968, they were still steered towards those neighborhoods and barred informally from many majority-White areas with homes that appreciated at a faster rate, leading to even more stolen wealth.

This racial wealth gap is both the cause – and a reflection of – the much lower homeownership rate of Black families, as a house is still the most valuable asset for most Americans. Nationally, the racial wealth gap broadened following the Great Recession: in 1984, White families had a median wealth 12 times that of Black families and 8 times that of Hispanic households. After the crash, White families’ median wealth increased to 20 times that of Black families and 18 times that of Hispanic ones. In New York City, White families make up more than 54% of homeowners, though they are only 45% of the city’s population.

It's a squeeze from month to month, but if the property tax issue is resolved, I'll be able to make it through OK, with God's help.

Mary, homeowner for five years

Although there are currently more than 180,000 Black homeowner households in the city, these homeowners face greater challenges to remaining in their homes than White families: foreclosures were more prevalent in majority-Black neighborhoods, and brown and Black communities are more likely to be targeted for scams, burdened by tax liens, or have difficulty funding large repairs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these long-standing inequalities. Black Americans and Black New Yorkers have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic—with Black New Yorkers twice as likely to die from the virus as White New Yorkers. These disparities have been tied to the decades of discrimination, redlining, segregation, over-policing, and environmental racism that has resulted in Black communities with fewer resources, less investment, and worse health outcomes.

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Vinnet, St. Albans

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Black wealth is tied up into two institutions — homes and businesses. Black wealth was wiped out in the Great Recession, and it's being wiped out by social distancing now.

Andre M. Perry, author of "Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America's Black Cities"

Now, as the country reckons with longstanding racial injustices and confronts the coronavirus pandemic, we need to stem any further losses of Black homeownership and to support Black homebuyers. This will take the intervention and expertise of community organizations, agencies, policymakers, homeowners, and other leaders in New York City. Have ideas, comments, or suggestions? Please get in touch!

Interested in participating or learning more about the project?

Contact Us