Residential Magazine

Q&A: Courtney Johnson Rose, National Association of Real Estate Brokers

The wealth gap for Black Americans starts at home

By Jim Davis

The Black unemployment rate hit a record low last year. Despite this encouraging sign, the wealth gap between white and Black Americans remains discouragingly high. The median wealth of Black households was about $44,900 in 2022, compared to $285,000 for white households.

One reason for this is the homeownership gap between Black and white families, with homes accounting for so much personal wealth. The homeownership rate for Black families is about 45% compared to nearly 75% for white families.

“If the cost of compliance is too high, we are going to see banks cutting growth again to stay below that threshold.”

The National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), a network of Black real estate professionals, recently released its 10th annual State of Housing in Black America (SHIBA) report. NAREB president Courtney Rose Johnson spoke to Scotsman Guide about the report and her group’s Building Black Wealth Tour, which includes events in 100 cities on April 13 to highlight Black homeownership potential.

The Black homeownership rate reached nearly 50% before the Great Recession. Will it surpass this mark in the near future?

It’s definitely possible, but some things would have to change. First, we have a tremendous housing inventory shortage. Our ability to be able to place a buyer in a home that’s affordable is a challenge.Second, there’s a lot more education and financial literacy that has to happen. The SHIBA report has shown continuously that there are over 2 million potential Black mortgage-ready homebuyers. Why haven’t they purchased? Is it the downpayment? Is it that they don’t know that they’re mortgage ready?

Federal policies helped to create this situation and you’re calling for federal policies to fix it. What are you hoping happens?

We all know a lot of discrimination was basically policy driven. So, we’re asking, for example, for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to look at their pricing grids and move toward more accurate, up-to-date credit-score models. Using just one type of credit-score model is not necessarily advantageous for Black and brown borrowers. If you look at the average African American, the VantageScore versus FICO is usually higher because of some of the things that VantageScore uses.

There’s a lot of things that the federal government could do to increase housing stock. How are cities using their Community Development Block Grants? Can some of the regulations, zoning and building requirements in certain cities be made more flexible? A lot of things that can happen from the government side would make homeownership more achievable for us.

Are you surprised that housing is not more of a conversation in an election year?

Housing affects everybody. As the pricing goes up around the country, the conversation about affordable housing isn’t just about low- to moderate-income families. I like to use the phrase “workforce housing,” meaning somebody that goes to work every day — teachers, firefighters, police officers, etc. — being able to buy housing in their price range. Housing production, interest rates, all these things are not just affecting Black and brown communities but affecting all of the communities out there.

Another worrisome issue is the number of homes purchased by Black borrowers that are vulnerable to climate change, right?

This is our second year in a row bringing this issue up. There’s a map in the report that shows the Black population in the country is in more highly populated areas in the South, Northeast, etc. Those same areas fall along the coastline, areas more susceptible to flooding and things of that nature. So, it’s something we are very conscious of as we push to increase homeownership. We’re also focused on home preservation, setting up Black homeowners in situations where they can sustain themselves as global warming and environmental challenges increase.

What are you hopeful for in the future?

We have launched the NAREB Building Black Wealth Tour as a response to the State of Housing in Black America. We’ve also launched the NAREB Black Developers Academy to help our members that are real estate developers scale and increase their production to be able to help with the housing shortage. We’re excited that Black consumers are coming out to get the information to figure out how they can become homeowners. ●


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