Black homeownership in NYC is on a 20-year decline. A free estate planning pilot could be a key in bridging racial wealth gaps.

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Black homeownership is on a 20-year decline in NYC, with rates below the citywide average of 32%.
(Edwin J. Torres/Mayoral Photography Office)

Black homeownership in the U.S. has always been systemically fraught, housing advocates say due to bias in home buying, home financing and exclusionary zoning practices that have widened a gap between white and Black homeowners.

According to the National Association of Realtors, despite a rise in Black homeownership rates to 43.3% in 2021, it is still inequitably dwarfed by homeownership rates of white Americans (72.1%), Asian Americans (61.7%) and Hispanic Americans (51.1%).

For most of the 20th century, the U.S. has relied on homeownership — subsidized through federal tax policy — as a means of wealth-building.

In New York City, Black homeownership had seen a steady 20-year decline — a 13% downturn since 2000, according to the Center for NYC Neighborhoods  — due to unsustainable/predatory mortgage practices and skyrocketing prices, according to the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, a nonprofit that promotes and protects affordable homeownership in New York.

To fix inequities in NYC’s Black ownership, the Center for NYC Neighborhoods sees a solution in free estate planning services, primarily focused in the neighborhoods of central Brooklyn and the north Bronx.

“For far too long, a legacy of racist housing practices has made it impossible for many Black families in the city to tap into the equity-building, cross-generational benefits of homeownership. Inheriting a home does not automatically lead to sustained homeownership — systems must be in place to protect it,” said Christie Peale, CEO and executive director of the Center for NYC Neighborhoods.

Black homeowners in the Bronx have been subject to intense mortgage stress and predatory housing policies, housing advocates and data suggests. Although the marathon COVID-19 pandemic has pushed NYC homeowners to overwhelming distress — some to the brink of foreclosure — perhaps no borough is disproportionately affected by virus-fueled mortgage distress more than the Bronx.

In 17 of the Bronx’s 25 ZIP codes, mortgage delinquency of 30 days or more is above 4%, according to a housing analysis compiled by the Center for NYC Neighborhoods. And for some areas like Mott Haven and Hunts Point, delinquency has boomed to 13%.

Additionally, the city’s majority Black neighborhoods were most at risk for foreclosures, with these ZIP codes having an average of 8.48% of homeowners who had failed to make their mortgage payments for more than 30 days.

Much like the 2008 housing crisis, market research suggests that the post-pandemic effect on homeowners is poised to be felt most strongly among communities of color, potentially fueling the already widening racial wealth gap.

Bronx has highest missed mortgage payments, biggest disparities in mortgage stress

 

Estate planning, the process of designating who will receive your assets in the event of death or incapacitation, is seen as key to generational wealth — a staggering disparity that widens among Black and white Americans.

Over the next two years, the Center’s “Generation 2 Generation” program aims to bolster intergenerational Black wealth, ensuring a family’s next generation can access a key source of wealth building.

“The goal is that this pilot get turned into a long-term program that gets more funding so that this can be a permanent resource that can bridge the racial wealth and homeownership gaps in our neighborhoods,” said Sabrina Bazile, a senior program manager at Center for NYC Neighborhoods. “We think of estate planning as private sector work, but we want this to be a major resource in the public sector.”

In 1950, the ratio of white-to-Black wealth was 7 to 1. Today, it’s 6 to 1. For every dollar the average white American has, the average Black American has only about 17 cents, according to longitudinal economic analyses.

Nationally, Black Americans make up 15% of the combined population of the 50 largest metro areas, but they own 10% of the owner-occupied homes in those cities. White Americans account for 64% of the population in those cities but own 76% of the owner-occupied houses.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

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