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Real Estate Group Looks To Improve Homeownership In African-American Communities

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Jae C. Hong/AP

The homeownership rate for Black Americans is 42.7 percent.

In Nevada, the rate of homeownership by all minority groups is even less than that, at about 41 percent. 

For blacks in Las Vegas, its lower, at 35 percent. The rate lags white homeownership by more than 30 percent. That gap is higher than when the Fair Housing Act was approved in 1968.

To address that and other issues, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers is holding a conference in Las Vegas this weekend. The association is the oldest minority trade association in the country. Its mission is to “promote democracy” in homeownership. 

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“We feel that we’ve been the conscience of America as far as the real estate is concerned in America since our inception," said president of the association Donnell Williams. 

 

He said the policies of governments and financial institutions have not always been fair to people of color and his group has worked in the past and continues to work now with those institutions to address that kind of discrimination.

Williams said a lot of factors contribute the gap in homeownership between white and black Americans, including a gap in income, education and the Great Recession.

Williams said the increasing gap in homeownership is a "crisis" that he has declared war on.

“We launched a campaign – two million new black homeowners in five years and that has gained a lot of attention. We’ve put programs behind it now, which are, if I do have to say so myself, pretty incredible," he said.

Shanta Patton is the regional vice president in Las Vegas for the National Association of Real Estate Brokers. She said there is a lot to do to bridge that gap but her group is making education a priority.

NAREB holds all kinds of community outreach programs to teach people about everything from loan options to boosting credit scores.

“We’re really helping them advocate for themselves but also letting them know that they are still able to get into a home and we’re here. We’re advocating for them to be able to do that,” she said.

One of the most important points when it comes to education is making sure people, especially younger people, know that it is vital to buy a house before buying an expensive car, Williams said, because it hurts their debt-to-income ratio, which is an important metric that lenders look at.

"I can guarantee them that if they don't buy that car first and mess up their debt-to-income ratio that that house will pay for the car," he said.

NAREB has created a website housthenthecar.com to help people understand the concept and calculate what they can afford.

Patton also wants to reach Millennials with a message about why homeownership is important. 

She noted that many of that age group witnessed the housing meltdown of the Great Recession when they were children and are often afraid of going through the same thing.

But getting Millennials to buy a home can help reach the goal of two million new black homeowners. 

“Millennials are the way to go because they have the income but they need to be educated,” she said.

Patton said real estate brokers need to stop trying to sell Millennials on the "American Dream" of buying a home. Instead, she believes they need to be sold on the benefit of homeownership as a wealth builder.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to increasing homeownership for everyone is affordable housing. Patton said it's not just increasing the number of affordable homes but increasing the inventory in desirable areas.

"To be able to make that choice between homeownership or a better, safer neighborhood with a better school for your children is a little bit of an issue here," she said.

Williams noted that affordable housing isn't a housing project or a ghetto but a place where police officers, firefighters and nurses live - and live comfortably.

"It's just such a huge monumental task that we have before us but someone has to do it and we've always rose to the occasion," he said.

(Editor's note: This discussion originally aired Feb. 6, 2020)

Guests

Donnell Williams, president, National Association of Real Estate Brokers; Shanta Pattonregional vice president, National Association of Real Estate Brokers

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