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5 Strategies to Grow Black Homeownership


Antoine M. Thompson 

In 1865, over 159 years ago, the U.S. eliminated or outlawed slavery in the U.S. with the passage of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. One of the promises and pledges to freed slaves was that each would receive 40 acres and a mule. This commitment would help former slaves with building a home, raising a family and growing wealth through land ownership and entrepreneurship. While some Black Americans were able to receive land in the 1860s and 1870s, unfortunately, many former slaves nor their descendants ever received land. In fact, many Black Americans that were given land were chased off their land with force and brutality from the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and other white supremacy organizations. 


Still to this day the dream of land and homeownership continues to be elusive for Black Americans from slavery, post slavery, the Jim Crow Era, the Civil Rights Era to the present. Whether it was the trick bag of sharecropping, land contracts, subprime loans, eminent domain policies or outright redlining of Black neighborhoods by banks and government organizations, it should not come as a surprise that there continues to be a persistent 30-point racial gap in homeownership rates in the U.S. Racial disparities in homeownership is at the core of wealth inequality in this country, you can’t separate the two. America is anchored in home and land ownership, always has been, always will be. In fact, for many years, only white men that owned property could vote in the U.S. 


Below are several strategies to help grow Black homeownership in the U.S.: Federal Student loan forgiveness for purchasing a home.  African Americans are disproportionately impacted by student loan debt forcing many to forgo homeownership. A program that addresses this disparity and forgives student loan debt would help many Black Americans achieve their homeownership dreams.


Create down payment assistance and federal Housing programs for Black descendants of slavery. Currently there are initiatives and dedicated federal housing and mortgage lending programs and incentives for Native Americans, similar efforts should be established for Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), those that are descendants of slaves in America. 


Create federal and state homeownership zone programs in communities with persistent low rates of Black homeownership especially in formerly redlined communities. Intentional efforts to invest in rehabilitation of existing homes, coupled with infill housing, funding for homebuyer education, down-payment and closing subsidies, special purpose mortgage credit programs, energy efficiency grants, and property tax incentives would have a huge impact on increasing Black homeownership. 


Lower mortgage interest rates despite the current historically low rate of Black unemployment in the U.S., high mortgage interest rates are limiting the potential for increasing the growth rate of Black homeownership. According to data from  Freddie Mac, there are over 2 million mortgage/credit eligible potential Black American homebuyers in the U.S. 


Increasing the number of Black Real Estate Agents, Appraisers, Loan Officers and Underwriters the housing ecosystem sorely lacks diversity. Underrepresentation in these key professions plays a major role in housing discrimination, redlining, bias in mortgage lending, and the undervaluing of properties owned by Black Americans. 


It’s important to note that Juneteenth and homeownership month are in the same month. Hopefully, one day, the promise of land and home ownership will be realized equally and equitably for Black Americans. 


~ Antoine M. Thompson is a housing policy expert, President of the Black Housing Policy Network (BHPN), Licensed Real Estate Agent with EXP Realty Group, former National Executive Director of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB). He is a former NYS Senator and former Buffalo City/Common Council Member.

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