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Homeownership in the U.S. has long been a dividing factor between the haves and have nots, but today work is being done to help those historically redlined out of fair housing.
The National Association of Realtors recently issued a report: Black Home Ownership Remains Desperately Low and the Black Wall Street Times spoke with Chicago resident and attorney Robert Johnson of the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago’s Economic Empowerment Institute to find out more about their program.
In a nationwide call to action, Mr. Johnson and YWCA Chicago are planning to eradicate America’s widening gap in homeownership. One way he aims to do this is through the YWCA’s campaign — Thrive ’25 — to bring the dream of homeownership to 1,000 Black Chicago men, women, and families by 2025. Though based in Chi-town, their program’s benefits extend to all 50 states.
An admittedly ambitious goal, Johnson is steadfast to make it happen. He cited historically systemic racism and discrimination in housing, along with redlining and a lack of education and access for the historic gap in Black homeownership.
Johnson also states the current way credit scores are reported tends to reflect poorly on Black applicants, who may have student loan debts and no verifiable, established equity to bolster their home loan application.
The key finding of the report is: The homeownership rate for Black Americans is 43.4%, trailing the 2010 rate of 44.2%. By contrast, the homeownership rate for White Americans is 72.1%, 61.7% for Asian Americans, and 51.1% for Hispanic Americans.
According to Business Insider, unless you’re making $14.50 an hour, you probably can’t afford to live in any American town.
Per the Economic Policy Institute’s updated Family Budget Calculator, a full-time worker with no children would need to make roughly $14.50 an hour to sustain themselves in the US county with the lowest cost of living: Orangeburg County, South Carolina.
Because Black and Hispanic men and women make up a large percentage of America’s working class, not everyone earns $14.50 an hour and the vicious cycle of poverty continues. Johnson states the pandemic did a toll on the unemployed who were more likely to be Black and Brown working-class employees.
“White families were able to buy more homes while Black and Brown communities struggled to pay rent,” Johnson said. According to Johnson, the rich got richer and the poorer got poorer over the last two years.
YWCA Chicago has a plan of action
If not for the pandemic, interest rates for homes and rents for apartments have both increased across the U.S., leaving many Black Americans vulnerable to whichever housing option they select. And that’s where YWCA comes in.
“Financial education is key,” said Johnson, who understands the problem well and remains adamant that access and information are essential to tangible change.
YWCA Metropolitan Chicago works with financial services partners and other local experts to bring the highest quality financial education and housing services to its members, regardless of race, income, gender identity, or family situation.
It’s not just a mission statement. It’s a plan of action. Johnson says the program takes practical steps such as supplying applicants with ‘Respect’ debit cards that are geared towards homeownership, goal setting, and access to services to propel renters to homeowners. In addition to financial and homebuyer education, YWCA also offers free scheduled meetings with a housing counselor among other vital services.
Homeownership remains the primary wealth-builder for Americans.
Johnson said an influx in Black homeownership would drastically improve America’s GDP over time and could slowly close the gigantic racial wealth gap in the U.S.
Johnson wants Black people to know help is not on the way – it’s right here, right now. YWCA Chicago has worked with and assisted over 60 people (and counting) to get into a home. Yet, they’re nowhere near done. To achieve community transformation, Johnson and YWCA are dedicated to working with individuals and families from all 50 states to find their future home across America.
Find out more information about YWCA Chicago and its benefits here.