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Black Americans still face ‘disproportionately steep hurdles’ to homeownership, expert says

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Homeownership is out of reach for many Americans — especially for Black Americans.

In the country’s largest metropolitan areas, Black people own a disproportionately small share of homes relative to population size, according to a new report from LendingTree.

In 2022, Black people made up an average of 14.99% of the population across the 50 largest metropolitan areas of the U.S., but owned an average of 10.15% of owner-occupied homes in such places, the report found. Those figures are roughly flat from 2021.

“Relatively speaking, Black people don’t own that many homes,” said Jacob Channel, a senior economist at LendingTree who authored the study.

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In Memphis, Tennessee, Black people make up nearly half the population, the largest share among all metros in the study. But they only own about 36% of homes in the area, LendingTree found.

LendingTree analyzed the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2022 American Community Survey with one-year estimates. The study ranks the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas by the difference between the percentage of owner-occupied homes in a metro owned by those who identify as Black and the share of an area’s population that identifies as Black.

Black people face ‘disproportionately steep hurdles’

“The data indicates that Black folks are probably going to face disproportionately steep hurdles that stand in the way of them becoming homeowners,” said Channel.

One of the hurdles is the income disparity. The median income for Black U.S. households was $51,374, about $29,000 less than the $79,933 median income for white U.S. households, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data.

While 51% of Black U.S. households in 2022 made at least $50,000 a year, the shares dwindle as the salary increases, Pew Research Center found. About 34% of Black households made $75,000 or more while 22% made $100,000 or more.

“They tend to have less household wealth, less access to intergenerational wealth,” Channel said.

A lower income can make it harder to save for a down payment and to qualify for a mortgage, especially when both home prices and interest rates remain elevated despite subtle declines.

Another element that comes into play is the tax system.

The tax code has a mortgage interest deduction that “overwhelmingly benefits people who can already afford a home,” said Sarah Hassmer, the director of housing justice at the National Women’s Law Center, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.

“There are some localities [offering] down payment assistance programs, which are a promising practice, but that is not a lived reality in our federal tax code yet,” Hassmer said.

Down payment assistance is a form of direct payment program that can help people who can already afford a monthly mortgage payment. However, the initial down payment is often the barrier of entry, Hassmer said.

While there are many more structural hurdles that impede homeownership for Black people in the U.S., experts agree that it’s important to keep focus on the issue.

“It’s not going to disappear overnight,” Channel said. “We can’t just burry our heads in the sand and hope and pray one day racial inequality in the U.S. suddenly disappears. That’s obviously not going to happen unless we really work towards it.” 

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