The Homeownership Gap

Blacks cite lack of knowledge, up-front costs as biggest obstacles

Homeownership is one of the keys to building wealth. And while the number of African Americans who own homes has risen in recent years, there’s still a sizeable gap when compared to other racial groups.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 74.8% of whites own their own homes as of the fourth quarter of 2002 compared to 47.5% for blacks. This disparity, as well as the reasons for it, is the focus of The Growing Demand for Housing: 2002 Fannie Mae National Housing Survey.

In the survey, which queried 1,864 adults–of which 505 were black–32% of African Americans said their credit rating would be a major obstacle to obtaining a mortgage, whereas only 23% of all adults said the same. Of the African Americans polled, 27% claimed lack of job security would be a major obstacle to buying a home, while 26% said that if they wanted to buy a home now, not knowing how to get started would be a major obstacle. Other barriers cited were discrimination or other social obstacles.

Margaret Simms, senior vice president for programs at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, D.C., says though lack of knowledge about the home-buying process is a major contributor to the ownership gap, there are other real barriers. They include discriminatory practices and income levels. “African Americans, on average, still make less than white Americans so their ability to come to the table to make this work is more limited,” says Simms, a member of the BLACK ENTERPRISE Board of Economists. “So they don’t have the same resources.”
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers an online home-buying guide at www.hud.gov/buying/index.cfm. Fannie Mae also offers a free downloadable home-buying guide at www.homebuyingguide.org.

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