As of 2015, 41 percent of black Americans owned a home, compared to 71 percent of white Americans. That 30 percent gap indicates that the rate of black homeownership in the U.S. has dropped to where it was in the 1960s, when the Fair Housing Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, just days after Martin Luther King was assassinated.
According to research by the Urban Institute Killeen, Texas currently has the smallest gap between black and white homeownership of any city in America.
Alanna McCargo is the institute’s vice president of housing policy. She says, while it’s sad that no city in America has completely closed the gap, Killeen and other cities with a large military presence have the smallest disparities between black and white homeownership.
“Everyone knows that buying a house is one of the biggest investments people make,” she says. “It’s very expensive and usually requires a loan. Access to credit on a national level has really been struggling across the country and so that has played a role.”
McCargo says access to credit, large down payments and affordability are the three main factors contributing to the housing gap. The Department of Veterans Affairs has programs that make credit more accessible to military families. Their lending program also allows for no, and low down payment options. Not only does Killeen’s military base allow for easy access to these programs but “there is a tremendous amount of affordable single-family housing available in that part of Texas.”
McCargo says banks should use the VA loan programs as a model to close the black and white housing gap.
“The black homeownership rate in this country is declining out of all racial groups,” she says. “It’s a really serious problem that all metropolitan areas really need to take a look at. There are things at the federal and local level that can be helpful in solving that problem.”
Written by Jeremy Steen.