NAREB Takes Fight for Black Homeownership To Congressional Hearing

NAREB President/CEO Jeff Hicks testifies before the Congressional hearing. PHOTO: Hazel Trice Edney
NAREB President/CEO Jeff Hicks testifies before the Congressional hearing. PHOTO: Hazel Trice Edney

The rate of Black homeownership in America – now at 41.1 percent, according to 2019 U. S. Census numbers – is even lower than it was when the U. S. Fair Housing Act was signed into law 51 years ago on April 11, 1968.

This means Black homeownership is 32.1 percentage points lower than that of Whites, which stands at 73.2 percent. It also means Black homeownership is 6.3 percentage points lower than that of Latino-Americans, which stands at 47.4 percent.

These are just a few of the facts presented to a recent U. S. Congressional hearing by homeownership advocates. The hearing, held by the House Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance, was the first modern day hearing of its kind – intended to discover the barriers to homeownership for people of color.

“Federal housing regulators and agencies have aggressively pursued lending practices and policies that make access to homeownership more challenging for Black Americans. It is against this backdrop that I give my testimony,” Jeff Hicks, president/CEO of the National Association of Black Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), testified to lawmakers at the hearing. “Our nation has a very complicated and checkered history with providing equal and equitable access to homeownership to Black Americans. At the end of World War II, when Black Americans sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom, dignity and human rights, the United States federal government created an economic divide between Blacks and Whites.”

Hicks described how Black veterans and their families were “denied the multigenerational, enriching impact of home ownership and economic security that the G.I. Bill conferred on a majority of White veterans, their children, and their grandchildren.”

He concluded that the “unequal implementation of the G.I. Bill, along with federal government policies and practices at the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), including the redlining of Black neighborhoods, were leveled against Black veterans” while at the same time the government financed the construction of suburbs and provided subsidized mortgage financing for Whites-only. This scenario “set the stage for today’s wealth and homeownership gap statistics,” Hicks said.

The hearing, led by Housing Subcommittee Chair Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr. (D-Mo.), marked the anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), signed into law one week after the April 4 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Together, the testimony of the 72-year-old NAREB – the oldest organization represented – and the string of witnesses at the 21st Century Congressional hearing, revealed that the storm is not nearly over.

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