Habitat for Humanity’s vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live, but a structure of intentional and systemic racial discrimination in the U.S. has created barriers to homeownership for many Black families.
Systemic discrimination has persisted into present policy, from redlining to inequitable access to mortgage credit. Taken together, these practices are barriers to saving for a down payment, getting a loan and affording a home – and they threaten the vitality and prosperity of every community.
Across the U.S., Black families are less likely to own their own homes than white families. During Habitat’s 45-year history, our work has helped close that homeownership gap; in FY2021, Black homeowners made up 43% of the families who partnered to build with us. But we must do more.
“Habitat is an established affordable housing leader, both as a developer and mortgage provider in the U.S.,” says Tawkiyah Jordan, Habitat for Humanity International’s senior director of housing and community strategy. “Our experience and scale uniquely position us to increase Black homeownership, a commitment we want to make absolutely explicit.”
Our comprehensive strategy for advancing Black homeownership
Habitat works to help dismantle the systemic bias that permeates U.S. home buying, home financing and exclusionary zoning practices, which have prevented generations of Black families from accessing the intergenerational wealth-building potential of homeownership.
Leveraging funds provided in part through MacKenzie Scott’s $436 million transformational donation, this work includes:
- Development of a racial-equity lending strategy and property acquisition fund through Habitat Mortgage Solutions, our community development financial institution.
- Funding opportunities for U.S. Habitat affiliates engaged in innovative work to increase Black homeownership locally.
- Financial coaching and counseling for applicants along their homeownership journey, whether they become Habitat homeowners or not.
- A Black homeowner advisory group, representative of the people we seek to serve, to help guide us as we develop strategies and implement programs to increase Black homeownership across the U.S.
- Research and measurement efforts to identify best practices in areas such as housing innovation, preserving home affordability, and exploring how new and existing programs lead to better outcomes for individuals and families.
- Advocacy for policy proposals and legislation that enable millions of people access to affordable homes through Cost of Home, our U.S. advocacy campaign.
As COVID-19 disproportionately ravaged Black, Hispanic and Indigenous communities in the U.S., and as growing awareness of police brutality against Black Americans sparked national outrage against systemic racial injustices, we knew it was time to meet the moment with a firm commitment to this critical work.
While our country continues to grapple with a long-overdue reckoning on racial justice, the reality is that there can be no racial justice without housing justice. More than a century of housing and land-use policies enacted by local, state and federal governments have denied households of color equal access to homeownership, mortgage credit, strong schools, neighborhood investment and many other opportunities offered to white households.
These disparities cannot be addressed without developing more inclusive communities, increasing the availability of affordable homes near public transportation and jobs, and transforming concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity so that all residents of the community can benefit.
Aspiring Black homeowners are most negatively affected by a system of discriminatory policies and practices that limit access to homeownership. The Black homeownership rate in the U.S. is currently the lowest of any other racial or ethnic group. By focusing on Black homeowners, we are recognizing the unique and specific policies and practices that have disadvantaged this community.
We are not reallocating any resources or deprioritizing any non-Black homeowners. In our commitment to focusing on Black homeownership, we develop new resources and capacity to ensure Black households have the same access to homeownership that others, particularly white Americans, have had.
Affordable housing helps communities thrive. It ensures teachers can live where they teach, firefighters can live where they serve, and business owners can set up shop locally. When our neighbors have affordable housing, they can in turn fuel economic growth through spending more on goods and services.
Aspiring Black homeowners are negatively affected by a system that limits access to homeownership, but many other people experience barriers to homeownership, too. For example, on average, credit scores – integral to mortgage application decisions – vary by income level and can value certain financial activities over others. We advocate for more inclusive credit-scoring practices, changes that could benefit all aspiring homeowners.
Local communities have the knowledge and experience to guide our work, and we rely on their leadership to keep us accountable. Habitat continues to operate this way by working closely with Black communities to:
- Amplify the voices of Black homeowners and aspiring homeowners by establishing an advisory group of Black Habitat homeowners and Black community members.
- Support local Habitat affiliates to engage and partner with Black communities and organizations.
- Establish standard diversity-, equity- and inclusion-focused language in documents, policies and procedures.
- Train our network to inclusively engage volunteers and diversify our volunteer base.
Habitat aims to increase the number of Black homeowners in the U.S. by expanding the way we serve Black families. Our work will contribute to collaborative efforts to create 3 million new Black homeowners by 2030 as part of the 3By30 Black Homeownership Collaborative.