At a time when housing prices continue to climb and affordability continues to dwindle, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) is eyeing ways to diminish the racial homeownership gap.

“In 2020, there is still a persistent gap in homeownership rates between whites, African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans,” Bryan Greene, NAR’s director of Fair Housing policy, said Thursday at the association’s second annual policy forum in Washington, D.C.

“We’ve seen homeownership rates among racial groups steadily rise, but I think many of us would have expected rates to have risen more,” Greene added. “We did see that happen for a period from the early 90s to the early part of this century, but dramatically, at least for African Americans, we started to see that homeownership rate decline — so much so that last year the homeownership rate for African Americans dipped below the rate in 1968 when the Fair Housing Act was passed.”

The association recently announced sweeping changes to the way it approaches housing discrimination, which became all the more relevant after a groundbreaking report by Newsday that highlighted specific instances of discrimination by real estate agents, including some Realtors.

The new proposal, passed unanimously by the associations’ eight-member leadership team, reviews state licensing laws, creates a voluntary fair-housing testing program and institutes new training programs.

In the past year, NAR, along with the Urban Institute and the National Association of Real Estate Brokers — a trade association that was established for African American agents at a time when they were still excluded from NAR — held a roundtable focused specifically on boosting the homeownership rate for African Americans.

According to the most recent Census information, homeownership among African American stood at 44 percent. The homeownership rate for white Americans, meanwhile, stands at 73.7 percent.

“The fact that homeownership rates for African Americans have regressed in spite of the presence of fair housing laws makes clear that various institutional challenges still must be faced and defeated,” NAR President Vince Malta said in a statement. “By strengthening post-purchase counseling; funding programs to prevent foreclosure for low- and moderate-income and vulnerable families of color; and building tools that help create early-warning displacement triggers, we can ensure first-time homebuyers have the knowledge and resources to remain homeowners for the rest of their lives.”

Email Patrick Kearns

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