Black households can only afford half the homes white families can

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Gentrification and rapid home price growth have intensified the loss of wealth the African-American community experienced post-crisis, widening the chasm between what white and black borrowers can afford, Redfin found.

In the country's 46 largest metro areas, only 25.3% of listings were affordable for African-American families while 57.5% were affordable for whites in 2018. Back in 2012 when the market started gaining traction, black families could afford 38.6% of homes while white households were at 69.1%.

"Home prices have risen 70% since the beginning of the housing crash recovery in 2012," Daryl Fairweather, Redfin's chief economist, said in a press release. "African-Americans, who were disproportionately affected by the housing crash in 2008, have found it much harder to get back into homeownership, especially as prices skyrocketed out of budget. With shortages of affordable homes, the future doesn't bode well for African-Americans who aspire to be homeowners. However, affordable housing and housing inequality is being taken seriously by 2020 presidential candidates. While some candidates' proposals are more specific than others, the fact that it's being discussed at the highest level of government is a step in the right direction."

Columbus, Ohio, Louisville, Ky., Memphis, Tenn., Atlanta and San Antonio are the only markets where the typical African-American family could afford over 40% of listings there. None broke the 50% threshold. On the opposite end of the spectrum, San Jose, Calif., and San Francisco were both under 0.5%, followed by San Diego and Los Angeles, which were each under 1.5%.

As cities evolve and populations shift, gentrification can push up values and push out residents who can no longer afford living there.

"As prices rise, minorities can get squeezed out of a neighborhood," Jason Allen, Maryland Redfin market manager, said in the press release. "For a lot of people, homeownership is their main vehicle for building long-term wealth. Many African-American families — who can only afford to buy homes in communities with fewer amenities, lower-rated schools and long commutes — end up sacrificing not only long-term appreciation, but also access to better job opportunities for themselves and better educational opportunities for their children."

Las Vegas' 46.6 percentage point drop was the biggest change in affordable listings for black households between 2012 and 2018. Orlando, Fla., and Riverside, Calif., followed with declines of 32.8 and 30.4 percentage points, respectively.

However, housing affordability is just one barrier within a larger, systemic discrimination problem.

"When you work in housing, you realize the disparities are much bigger than they appear. Lower-income people, people of color, those whose families don't have wealth tend to have trouble overcoming those situations," Julia Gordon, president of National Community Stabilization Trust, said in an interview.

"People of color have an inherent disadvantage of not having the 'Bank of Mom and Dad' to rely on. Sometimes we take certain features of our mortgage system for granted as if they're the only way to do things. With down payments, there was a decision made a long time ago that a borrower being in the first-loss position of the mortgage would result in better outcomes in terms of paying it back. There have been a number of studies and a lot of evidence that suggest it's actually not true. Maybe this down payment thing isn't working the way we think it is and it's just keeping people out who don't have an easy way to come up with a big chunk of change at the beginning," Gordon said.

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Housing affordability Home prices Housing market Racial Bias Down payments Redfin