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RPIC Policy Agenda – Increase Affordable, Fair, & Healthy Housing Options

The relationship between income, housing, and wealth accumulation is interconnected. As Choi et al.  (2019) note, “there is a well-documented persistence of income inequality by race, a key factor contributing to the homeownership gap. Household income is a key input for mortgage underwriting determinations, and income is used in various calculations required for mortgage approval, such as the debt-to-income ratio.” [i] While the median income differences between white and Black households plays a major role in explaining the current differences in homeownership,[ii] research finds that “even among Black and white households in the same income cohort, there is a noticeable homeownership gap.”[iii] Evidence therefore points to the intergenerational impact of homeownership, and not income alone, as the accumulated inheritances and parental support that accompany home ownership, are “crucial in helping low-income households attain homeownership.”[iv]

Rather than narrowing, the gap in homeownership rates by race has grown steadily over the last century. In 1900, the gap between white and Black homeownership was 27.6%,[v] that gap has not improved in the last 121 years with U.S. Census Bureau data from April 2021 showing a 29.6% difference between white and Black homeowners. [vi],[vii] The difference in median wealth has been attributable almost entirely to homeownership and the passing of resources through inheritance. Shapiro (2006) explains that homeownership acts as a vehicle for savings and for growing capital over the life course: “Homeownership and housing appreciation are the foundation of institutional accumulation. Indeed, for most Americans, home equity represents the largest reservoir of wealth: home wealth accounts for 60% of the total wealth among America’s middle class.”[viii]

Black homeownership peaked in 2004 at 49.7%, but fell as a result of the foreclosure crisis in which “black families were hit particularly hard, housing data show, forcing many out of their homes and pushing black homeownership rates to record lows.”[ix]  In all, over 240,000 Black families or eight percent of Black homeowners lost their homes in the 2005-2008 period.[x]  The impact of the housing recession of was largely the result of predatory lending which, while increasing the number of minority homeowners, did so at higher interest and with worse lending terms for borrowers. Dey and Brown (2020) note, “at the center of the Great Recession was a subprime mortgage crisis that disproportionately affected Black and Hispanic homeowners. New mortgage originations declined whereas foreclosures and other reversals in homeownership increased, wiping out gains in minority homeownership rates.”[xi] Following the recession, Black households did not see the rebound in homeownership that white households experienced.[xii] In fact, between January of 2000 and January of 2019, Black homeownership fell 6.3% overall.[xiii] More importantly, “half of the wealth owned by Black households in the United States was destroyed.”[xiv]

Solution #1: Increase minority homeownership

Reform(s) Needed:

  1. Expanded down payment assistance programs in minority communities.
  2. Address bias and disparities in appraisals.
  3. Expanded emergency mortgage assistance/foreclosure prevention programs to ensure that a low income household doesn’t lose their home.
  4. “Ban the box” on NC Standard Offer to Purchase that asks if the borrower is receiving down payment assistance.

Solution #2: Provide more affordable housing options for those making less than 80% AMI

Reform(s) Needed:

  1. Expand the number and amount for Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC).
  2. By-right zoning of multifamily, including small-to-medium-sized multifamily like duplexes, quadplexes, and ADUs.
  3. Provide seed funding for Community Land Trusts in major urban markets.
  4. Promote permanent supportive housing for those under 30% AMI.

Solution #3: Promote Affordable Housing Development in High Opportunity Areas

Reform(s) Needed:

  1. Increase incentives to landlords to accept HUD Housing Choice Vouchers.
  2. Enact statutes allowing mandatory  Inclusionary Zoning, not just in conditional programs.
  3. Expand Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule and require Fair Housing Equity Assessments.
  4. Promote the use of publicly owned property for affordable housing or mixed-use development.

Download the printable Research, Policy, and Impact Agenda Part 2 Increase Housing Options


[i] Choi J., McCargo A., Neal M., Goodman L., Young C. (2019). “Explaining the Black-White Homeownership Gap: A Closer Look at Disparities across Local Markets.” Urban Institute. https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/101160/explaining_the_black-white_homeownership_gap_2.pdf

[ii] Choi, Jung Hyun. (2020). “Breaking Down the Black-White Homeownership Gap.” Urban Wire: Housing and Housing Finance. https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/breaking-down-black-white-homeownership-gap

[iii] Choi et al. ,2019

[iv] Choi, 2020.

[v] Olsen, Skylar. (2018). “Black and White Homeownership Rate Gap Has Widened Since 1900.” Zillow. https://www.zillow.com/research/homeownership-gap-widens-19384/

[vi] U.S. Census Bureau. (2021). “Homeownership Rates by Race and Ethnicity: Non-Hispanic White Alone in the United States [NHWAHORUSQ156N].” retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/NHWAHORUSQ156N

[vii] U.S. Census Bureau. (2021). “Homeownership Rates by Race and Ethnicity: Black Alone in the United States [BOAAAHORUSQ156N].” retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/BOAAAHORUSQ156N

[viii] Shapiro, Thomas. (2006). “Race, Homeownership and Wealth.” Journal of Law and Policy 20:53-74. https://openscholarship.wustl.edu/law_journal_law_policy/vol20/iss1/4.

[ix] McMullen, Troy. (2019).” The ‘heartbreaking’ decrease in black homeownership: Racism and rollbacks in government policies are taking their toll.” Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2019/02/28/feature/the-heartbreaking-decrease-in-black-homeownership/

[x] Gruenstein Bocian, Debbie, Li, Wei & Ernst, Keith. (2010). “Foreclosures by Race and Ethnicity: The Demographics of a Crisis.” Center for Responsible Lending. https://www.responsiblelending.org/mortgage-lending/research-analysis/foreclosures-by-race-and-ethnicity.pdf

[xi] Dey , Jaya & Brown, Lariece. (2020). “The Role of Credit Attributes in Explaining the Homeownership Gap Between Whites and Minorities Since the Financial Crisis, 2012–2018.” Housing Policy Debate. DOI: 10.1080/10511482.2020.1818599

[xii] Choi et al. 2019.

[xiii] U.S. Census Bureau. (2021). “Homeownership Rates by Race and Ethnicity: Black Alone in the United States [BOAAAHORUSQ156N].” retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/BOAAAHORUSQ156N

[xiv] Markley, Scott, Hafley, Taylor, Allums, Coleman, Holloway, Steven, & Chung, Hee Cheol. (2020). “The Limits of Homeownership: Racial Capitalism, Black Wealth, and the Appreciation Gap in Atlanta.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. DOI: 10.1111/1468-2427.12873

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RPIC Policy Agenda – Advancing Economic Opportunities for Minority Communities

According to the Federal Reserve, in 2020 white families in the US had a median wealth of $188,200, compared to $24,100 for Black families.[i] Family wealth is an important tool for providing an economic safety net and for assisting the next generation in getting started. [ii] Wealth accumulation was systematically denied, and, in many cases, capital was even taken from Black communities and commuted to white institutions, resulting in the huge disparity seen today[iii]. The legacy of exclusionary practices in the twentieth century is the 800% difference in the median wealth of white versus Black families. Shapiro (2006) exclaims that “closing the racial wealth gap must be at the forefront of the civil rights agenda in the twenty-first century.”[iv]

The wage gap between white and Black workers is an important contributor to disparities in access to homeownership as well as just good quality housing, medical care, food access, and educational opportunities.[v] This wage differential narrowed between 1880, when “Blacks in the United States earned only about 34 percent of the income of whites,”[vi] to 51% by the 1950s.[vii] The gap narrowed further with improving labor rights for workers in the 1960s:“The black-white wage gap shrunk substantially from 1950 to 1980, and especially during the 1960s. Civil-rights laws and a decline in legally sanctioned racism most likely played some role. But the main reasons, Mr. Charles said, appear to have been trends that benefited all blue-collar workers, like strong unions and a rising minimum wage. Because black workers were disproportionately in blue-collar jobs, the general rise of incomes for the poor and middle class shrank the racial wage gap.”[viii]

Little has changed in the last 40 years. There remains a 38.8% gap in earnings today. According to the U.S. Census, the median income in 2020 was $45,870 for black households and $74,912 U.S. dollars for white, non-Hispanic families.[ix],[x] Across the South, these wage differentials are even more pronounced. For example, in Montgomery, Baton Rouge, Charlotte, and Memphis, Black households earn half the median income of white households. In some Southern cities the differential is even greater. For instance, in Atlanta, Georgia the Black median household income is $31,900 compared to the non-Hispanic white income of $96,065.[xi] As noted in national and state-level analysis by PayScale, Inc, “equal pay for equal work is not a reality for many people of color. When controlling for education, years of experience, occupation and other compensable factors, most men and women of color still earn less than white men…. these differences in annual earnings can amount to hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars less for people of color over the course of their careers.”[xii]

Solution #1: Ensure equal pay protection for minorities & women

Reform(s) Needed:

  1. Reinstate the federal government’s collection of pay data from employers
  2. Ban the solicitation of applicant salary data in NC County and Municipal Governments
  3. Strengthen equal pay protections via federal Paycheck Fairness Act and the Raise the Wage Act

Solution #2: Increase access to credit & capital

Reform(s) Needed:

  1. Provide universal free basic checking accounts for unbanked individuals
  2. Addressing student loan debt and lower credit scores in minority communities
  3. Promote microlending (under $50k) for minority and women owned startups
  4. Expand resources for the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund
  5. Promote “Baby Bonds” through the American Opportunity Accounts
  6. Hold commercial lenders accountable for making loans available to minorities and women at the same rates as others.

Solution #3: Stimulate growth entrepreneurship among minority owned businesses.

Reform(s) Needed:

  1. Increase the share of federal, state, and local contracts allocated to small, minority-owned businesses
  2. Provide wider training and technical assistance to HUB businesses to help them access HUB-related benefits
  3. Provide funding to technical assistance providers with experience supporting minorities and women (like NIMED).
  4. Promote minority business incubator and technical assistance programs by expanding Small Business Administration funding

Download the printable Research, Policy, and Impact Agenda Part 1 Advancing Economic Opportunities


[i] Bhutta, Neil, Andrew C. Chang, Lisa J. Dettling, and Joanne W. Hsu (2020). “Disparities in Wealth by Race and Ethnicity in the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances,” FEDS Notes. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, DOI: 10.17016/2380-7172.2797.

[ii] Kriston McIntosh, Emily Moss, Ryan Nunn, and Jay Shambaugh. (2020). Examining the Black-white wealth gap. Up Front. The Brookings Institution. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/02/27/examining-the-black-white-wealth-gap/

[iii] Baradaran, Mehrsa. (2017). The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap. Cambridge, Mass. Belknap Press, Harvard University Press.

[iv] Shapiro, Thomas. (2006). “Race, Homeownership and Wealth.” Journal of Law and Policy 20:53-74. https://openscholarship.wustl.edu/law_journal_law_policy/vol20/iss1/4.

[v] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Committee on Community-Based Solutions to Promote Health Equity in the United States; Baciu A, Negussie Y, Geller A, et al. , editors. (2017). Communities in Action: Pathways to Health Equity. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 11. 3, “The Root Causes of Health Inequity.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK425845/

[vi] Ng, K., & Virts, N. (1993). “The Black-White Income Gap in 1880.” Agricultural History, 67(1), 1–15. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3744636

[vii] Leonhardt, David. (2020). “The Black-White Wage Gap Is as Big as It Was in 1950: Recent research indicates little progress since the Truman administration.” The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/25/opinion/sunday/race-wage-gap.html

[viii] Leonhardt, 2020.

[ix] Statista Research Department. (2021). “Median income of white, non-Hispanic private households in the United States from 1990 to 2020.” Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/203277/median-income-of-white-households-in-the-us/

[x] Statista Research Department. (2021). “Median income of black private households in the United States from 1990 to 2020.” Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/203295/median-income-of-black-households-in-the-us/

[xi] SimplyAnalytics (2021). “U.S. Census American Community Survey 2020 Current Estimates Data from SimplyAnalytics database.”

[xii] PayScale. (2021). “The Racial Wage Gap Persists in 2020.” https://www.payscale.com/data/racial-wage-gap