Looking back at the past, racial discrimination clearly played a key role in the housing crisis and the resulting financial collapse. And looking forward, the Great Recession will continue to have a disparate impact on Black homeowners for generations to come, according to a new report by the ACLU.
“Not only were black homeowners devastated by the housing market collapse, they are now being left behind. It is very much a tale of two recoveries,” said Rachel Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, in a statement.
While there have been several socioeconomic analyses in the wake of the recent recession, this study, conducted for the ACLU by the Social Science Research Council, focused mainly on Black and White Americans who owned homes sometime between 1999 and 2011. So, this is the “middle-class version” of the post-recession study, Goodman told the AFRO.
According to the report, between 2007-2009 (the height of the housing bust and economic landslide), all families saw significant declines in household wealth. But beginning in 2009, most White households began to rebound – median White household wealth, both home equity and otherwise, exhibited zero loss. In Black households, however, wealth continued to seriously decline: home equity dropped an additional 13 percent and non-home-equity wealth fell another 40 percent.
One factor driving the trend is that housing prices have recovered differently in various communities, Goodman said. And then there’s the lingering impact of the racially discriminatory subprime loans that precipitated the economic decline in the first place.
“Because predatory loans were so disproportionately distributed, there were and still are people of color saddled with these predatory loans who are still going through foreclosures and bearing the burden of large mortgage payments,” the attorney said.
The divergent recoveries and the resultant widening wealth gap and other disparities present dire implications for the future, the report concluded. “We believe that wealth disparity and residential segregation are at the core of quite a lot of other issues that the Black community is dealing with,” Goodman said.
“Before the housing crisis, we were making some progress toward addressing that disparity, particularly among homeowners,” she added. But, because of predatory lending and lingering impacts of recession, those trend lines have shifted.
“We just lost another couple generations of potential equality in this country, and we’ve been waiting so long,” Goodman said.
The nation was on track to see the home equity disparity between White and Black households nearly erased by 2050, according to the report. Given the unequal impacts of the recession, however, by 2031, a typical Black household’s wealth is forecast to be nearly 40 percent lower than it would have been and the wealth gap is forecast to increase to 4.5 percent. And, by 2050, White descendants of the study’s survey participants are projected to have 1.6 times the home equity of Black descendants.
While there have been a lot of “good intentions” as it comes to policy, it is clear policymakers need to act to halt the financial crisis’ devastating impact on Black families, Goodman said.
“There is a mortgage fatigue in Washington; people no longer want to talk about, they want to move on, but it’s still impacting actual people,” Goodman said. “And, without some corrective policy changes it may be 30-40 years before the AfricanAmerican community gets back what it lost during the recession.”
The study offers several recommendations including: regulating mortgage servicers to stamp out racial disparities in their practices; reforming the secondary mortgage market to encourage inclusive lending and discourage discrimination by originators; and also ensuring the pendulum doesn’t swing so far as to deny credit to worthy Black mortgage applicants.
“Steps can be taken right now to help close the growing racial wealth divide, and to ensure that the next generation has the benefits of assets and savings that bring a more secure future,” said Sarah Burd-Sharps, co-director of the Social Science Research Council’s Measure of America project and co-author of the study.