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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Black homeownership trends look bleak

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Amy Harwell is proud of the legacy she’s been a part of for more than 50 years on Brouse Avenue. There, just a block west of Keystone Avenue, everyone owns their home — some for more than 60 years — and many have come back to live in their childhood home.

Harwell’s husband built the red brick house in the 1950s, and Harwell has lived in it since they married. She keeps the yard and garden in vibrant condition and scoffs at trash that blows onto the grass — presumably left by people who don’t live in the area, she thinks.

Harwell’s reality is a dream that appears unattainable for many African Americans, though.

Nearly all of the gains made in Black homeownership following the Fair Housing Act of 1968 have been wiped out, a trend that began with the 2008 financial crisis. The homeownership gap between Blacks and whites was at 30 percentage points in 2017, which is larger than it was in 1968, according to an analysis from the Urban Institute.

  1. ‘We’ve been gentrified’

A study from the Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy at IUPUI found the Black homeownership rate in Marion County is 34%, compared to 64% for whites in the county and 73% for all of Indiana. Even in majority-Black neighborhoods in Marion County, white homeownership is about 20 percentage points higher than Black homeownership.

Part of the problem, of course, is income and wealth disparities. Government-sanctioned discrimination effectively locked many African Americans out of homeownership for decades, allowing whites to buy and sell homes more freely and build wealth. The net worth of a white family is now about 10 times that of a Black family, according to Brookings Institution.

The Black-white wage gap in 2019 was about 26%, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Phyllis Hackett, who currently lives in the third home she’s owned in Riverside, said it all comes back to the economic conditions that have been forced onto African Americans.

The opportunity for good income just isn’t there for a lot of people, she said, and even for someone who does technically have enough money and good enough credit to buy a home, it can still be a risky move because of all the maintenance costs that come along with it.

Homebuyer education can also be a barrier.

Krystal Menser, an agent with RE/MAX Legends Group, said some homebuyers don’t know what she considers to be the basics: minimum credit score, debt-to-income ratio and other requirements to get approved for a loan.

Homebuyers depend on agents like Menser to walk them through the process. That’s part of an agent’s job, but it also can slow the process.

Menser recommends going through a homebuying course like the one at Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership or simply using Google to search for common questions and basic requirements.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

Amy Harwell stands in front of the home she has lived in for more than 50 years. Her husband built it in the 1950s. (Photo/Tyler Fenwick)

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