STATE PROGRAMS DESIGNED to boost home ownership by people of color are working, but more funding, outreach, and affordable homes are needed to significantly reduce the historical racial gap in home ownership, according to a new report put out by the research arm of the Boston Foundation.
The Boston Indicators report says decades of explicit exclusion, zoning laws, predatory lending practices, and wealth extraction have left large racial disparities in homeownership. In Greater Boston, only 40 percent of Black and 37 percent of Latino families own homes compared to 73 percent of White households.
In an already tight housing market, Black and Latino homebuyers face a set of unique challenges as they gather down payments and secure mortgage loans — and even after they have already bought a house. The report said several programs have proven effective in helping income-eligible Black and Latino households achieve homeownership, including the Massachusetts Housing Partnership’s ONE Mortgage, which offers a minimum 3 percent down payment; MassHousing’s Workforce Advantage program, which pays for mortgage insurance; the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance’s STASH program, which helps buyers save money for a home purchase; and the state’s MassDREAMS down payment and closing cost assistance program.
“For these programs and others to reach their full potential, we need to seize the opportunity to both expand their availability and simplify what can be an exceptionally challenging process for first-time homebuyers to find programs that meet their needs,” said Luc Schuster, executive director of Boston Indicators.
The programs mentioned in the study do not target race explicitly, in order to stay compliant with fair housing and other laws, the report said. But the programs have found workarounds to attract more home buyers of color. For example, MassDREAMS focuses its efforts in cities and towns that have a higher share of Black and Latino residents.
At a panel discussion on the report on Wednesday, Clark Ziegler, the executive director of the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, said most of the progress in promoting home ownership by people of color has come about by better targeting messages about support programs to the right audiences. “It’s because of the intentionality about how we are reaching out and what channels we are using to reach out,” he said. “And there’s even more we could do in that space.”
While the Boston Indicators report said funding and outreach will be key in expanding home ownership by people of color, the biggest challenge is the housing shortage in the Greater Boston area. Symone Crawford, the executive director of the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance, said programs like STASH would be far more effective if there were more homes for Black and Latino residents to buy. “This is a beautiful program at a time when there’s still nothing to buy,” she said.
The report recommends subsidizing developers to work on affordable housing projects and revamping zoning rules to make new construction easier.
The moderator of Wednesday’s discussion, Soni Gupta, asked for the panelists’ thoughts on race-conscious, race-targeting reparations within homeownership programs.
Crystal Kornegay, the executive director of MassHousing, made it clear that homeownership assistance programs should not be conflated with reparations. “I do not want to talk about home ownership programs as reparations,” she said. “That’s a personal thing for me because I don’t understand why we think that, in doing that, you’re going to repair 400 years of discrimination.”