It doesn’t require a stretch of the imagination to assume that the rate of home ownership among African-American Memphians, who comprise two thirds of the the city’s population, has a profound effect on the city’s racial gaps in wealth, education and living conditions.
The startling news that the rate dropped from 54 percent in 2005 to 45 percent in 2015, three years after the city of Memphis settled a lawsuit with Wells Fargo over allegedly predatory lending practices that targeted black homeowners, should serve as a call to action.
The settlement won $7.5 million for local home ownership initiatives and a promise to provide $425 million in loans.
There may be a few African-Americans making the conscious choice to rent rather than buy their homes, but this is a choice that in most cases will only benefit landlords.
Homeownership has been the best way to build wealth. According to one study, the average wealth for black Americans who own homes is $90,000, including $50,000 in home equity. The average wealth for black Americans who rent is $2,000.
But homeownership among African Americans nationally has declined to levels not seen since passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, when housing discrimination was legal. The rate reached nearly 50 percent in 2004. At the end of 2016, it stood at 41.7 percent, near a 50-year low, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. (The Commercial Appeal)