ASU report details why racial inequities in home ownership continues
PHOENIX — Recent census data shows African Americans own homes at a smaller percentage than white Americans, a continuation of years of housing discrimination.
Census data from 2019 found that in Arizona, African Americans were more than 36 percentage points less likely to own a home than whites.
That trend is the focus of a report by Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute, as Associate Director of Research Alison Cook-Davis says looking at the past helps to understand the present.
“This gap in home ownership is one of the factors behind the racial wealth gap in America,” she said.
There are many examples in recent history.
Struggling homeowners during the Great Depression got federal relief, and World War II veterans got support from the G.I. Bill to purchase homes.
However, African Americans faced discrimination and weren’t able to take advantage of the programs at the same rate as whites.
Displacement was also a factor. One example in Arizona was the construction of Interstate 17, which cut through South Phoenix neighborhoods with primarily Black and Latino residents.
The 2008 housing crisis exposed more inequalities.
A larger percentage of Black homebuyers were approved for more risky subprime loans – and Black households were over three times more likely to face foreclosure than white households.
“Although racial discrimination in housing is now prohibited, the echoes of history with inequity continue, despite efforts to level the homeownership playing field,” Cook-Davis said.
She says that fact is represented in the most recent census data.
“Families of color are less likely to own homes, and the homes they own are considered less valuable,” Cook-Davis said.
She said despite the historical nature of these inequalities, there are ways to combat them.
The report details several policy solutions, such as reevaluating how credit scores are calculated, removing race from mortgage applications and working to increase affordable housing stock.
Part of the solution is more individualized but just as important.
“Oftentimes, people of color do not come from generations of homeowners,” Cook-Davis said. “Targeted education opportunities could increase knowledge and comfort with that process.”