The Department of Housing and Urban Development has designated June as “National Homeownership Month”. Previous HUD administrators have signed initiatives and committed funds to make homeownership more accessible and affordable for low-income and minority households. There are both long term and social benefits to homeownership. The housing market nets trillions of dollars into the economy. Because of these financial benefits, policy makers have promoted homeownership through several programs to benefit low income families.
Despite HUDs housing initiatives, low income families and especially black families, own homes at disproportionate rates than any other households in this country. Homeownership is one way to build financial security. There are a lot of factors why so many low-income families and minority families still don’t own their own home. Studies show that homeownership for black households is lower now than it was fifty years ago. Access to affordable financial products, credit and income are still the top three barriers that keep many low income and minority families from seeing the benefits of owning a home or even starting on the path to homeownership.
Recently, while riding my bike on a well-marked route though the hills of Waterloo, Wisconsin, I couldn’t help but notice huge signs that were strategically placed on land belonging to an obvious farmer. Waterloo, WI has a population of about 3300 people. It appeared the owner(s) wanted to make a statement to the 2000 plus bike riders riding past their land. The big blue and red signs announced, “Make America Great Again” and “Trump”. It was almost comical and sad at the same time. It’s been a difficult season for farmers. Many farmers in the United States are struggling, especially those in the Midwest. They’ve not been able to sow crops because of the amount of rainfall during planting season. The trade wars and tariffs Trump placed on China has put farmers who rely heavily on selling their produce overseas in a financial bind. Seeing this sign, I wanted to ask the farmer how is that working for you? But my thoughts went to homeownership while trying to keep my mind off the next hill. The path to homeownership is not always well marked or easy to follow for many families. I wondered how do we do a better job of getting the benefits of homeownership in the hands of more low-income families and African American families?
Homeownership is a wealth building tool. Homeownership changes the course of neighborhoods. It brings stability to families and economic growth to distressed communities. Homeownership gives voice and visibility to those often overlooked even though it might be with ridiculous signs in ones’ front yard. These same powers must be given to those living in urban areas, especially urban areas like the South Side of Peoria.