By: Langley Hoyt, Domestic Issues YAV
People of color are disproportionately impacted by the housing crisis in the United States. This is not a coincidence, but a product of racism baked into the housing system over the course of decades. The U.S. has a long history of government-sanctioned policies that denied people of color, especially Black Americans, opportunities for homeownership, which made them more vulnerable to the harmful effects of the housing crisis like homelessness and evictions. If we are to end the housing crisis, racial equity must be prioritized as an essential contributor to fair housing.
Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities are the most affected by quickly disappearing affordable housing, rising rent and land prices, and homelessness. Although Black Americans are only 13 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 40 percent of the homeless population. A study in Milwaukee found that Black women are only 9.6 percent of the city’s population, but they make up 30 percent of evictions. The Hispanic population is 18 percent of the U.S. population but 21 percent of the homeless population. These current-day disparities can be traced directly to discriminatory housing policies that began decades ago.
Housing policies like redlining exacerbated neighborhood segregation and barred Black Americans from qualifying for federal homes loans. This kept government resources out of Black neighborhoods and prevented Black households from building wealth through homeownership. Black households were forced to rent, while white households easily received government funding for homeownership. Some Black families ventured to purchase a home despite the obstacles. However, the only viable financing options were risky loans with high-interest rates and high down payments. If that family missed one mortgage payment, they would be evicted and lose everything they had invested. The lender would then continue the vicious cycle of predatory lending by finding another Black family to target. Even after the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968, these discriminatory practices continued.
Predatory housing practices continue well into this decade. In 2000, lenders were still 6 to 12 times more likely to target Black households for high-interest rates and high down payment loans. When the housing market crashed in 2008, high-income Black households were 80 percent more likely to lose their homes than high-income white households. The crash further increased the racial wealth gap. As a result, the majority of white families today own a home, while the majority of Black and Latinx households still do not.
Black and brown communities have faced constantly evolving iterations of a discriminatory housing system that targeted them based on their race. Because of this, a disproportionate number of Black and brown people are still affected by unaffordable housing, homelessness, and eviction. To solve this housing crisis, we must create an equitable system that prioritizes the communities of color that have been negatively impacted by discriminatory policies. If not, the racial inequities already fostered in the housing system will only continue to grow.
We must hold our local, state, and federal government officials accountable for fixing the housing crisis by creating reparative housing policies. Reparative programs are necessary to counteract the harm done to communities of color for generations and to stop it from continuing. An example of a reparative housing policy would be establishing a homeownership program that provides financial support to individuals and families who were affected by redlining and subprime loans. Another example is a program that offers low-interest rate home loans to people of color in neighborhoods currently targeted by predatory lending. Programs such as these are imperative to healing the wound created and maintained by a racist housing system.
As we continue our call to be a Matthew 25 church that seeks to dismantle systemic racism and eradicate poverty, we must also include racial justice as a central tenant when discussing the housing crisis. Right now, the church has an opportunity to be a moral voice and an institutional resource in the fight against systematized racism. This involves advocating for equitable policies in addition to our service work. We must hold decision-makers accountable for creating restorative housing policies. Otherwise, our siblings of color will continue to be disproportionately impacted.
If you or your church want to know more about policy-oriented racial justice advocacy, visit The Movement for Black Lives and sign up for action alerts from the Office of Public Witness. For resources on housing advocacy, join a campaign with the National Coalition for the Homeless, or take action through the National Low Income Housing Coalition. God calls us to act against racism, and the time to act is now.