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Redlining and Preventing Home Ownership
Beginning in 1934, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) bolstered existing segregationist tactics by declining to underwrite homes in predominantly Black communities. The FHA justified this official policy, known as redlining, by describing Black neighborhoods as an elevated risk. The end result increased homeownership among white Americans, but not among Black ones.
The FHA did not only refuse to insure homes in Black communities. It also actively fought integration and Black homeownership. In the rare case of a Black family being able to afford to buy into a white neighborhood with no government assistance, the FHA would reject mortgages in the area even for white occupants. Its pretense was that the community was now at an increased due to the threat of integration. This practice placed an additional layer of restriction against Black potential homeowners. It further ensured that Black residents would not become homeowners, and ushered Black people into crowded urban areas that helped create generations of poverty.
Similar policies persisted into the latter half of the twentieth century. In 1963, the historic March on Washington included demands to end segregation and discrimination in housing. By 1968, the Fair Housing Act had been introduced, outlawing racial discrimination in private housing. Still, Black and non-white applicants continued to face outsized barriers to housing.
By the time Black people were technically free to purchase homes in the communities that had previously excluded them, most could not afford to. Over the decades when white homeownership was promoted but Black people were excluded, white families built equity, while Black ones were trapped into cycles of poverty.
Today, long-term effects of segregation in housing linger for Black Americans. In 2020, the Census Bureau reported that only 44% of Black people are homeowners, dwarfed by the three quarters of white homeowning households. Black people are also more likely to take on more debt in order to purchase homes, strapping them down with increased liabilities. Black people who do own homes have the lowest median incomes of all races, and their homes are worth the least. All of these factors have led to a disproportionate number of Black Americans experiencing homelessness, due to systemic discrimination in housing.
Read the full article about Black homelessness by Tianna Kelly at National Alliance to End Homelessness.