It’s no secret that homeownership is a proven route to building wealth in the United States. But in a competitive housing market with some of the most expensive homes in the country, it’s difficult for Black Bay area residents to buy a home to begin the process.
“It was work, but it was exciting,” said Paul Austin, homeowner in Marin City.
He and his wife Tenisha Tate Austin feel like they captured part of the American Dream when they bought their first home together in 2016.
The couple secured an original pole home in Marin City, but faced a number of challenges in securing the property.
“As soon as a house is put on the market, you go in, you bid, and then you get a bid of $ 100,000 or more, pretty quickly,” Austin said. “It can be a little depressing.”
The Austin bought the home off-market from another black family, who hoped to make homeownership a reality for a young black couple.
After moving into their home, which was originally built in the 1960s, the Austin’s began major renovations.
The couple added an entire floor and over 1,000 additional square feet of space.
They didn’t stop there, building a patio, new floors, a fireplace, and adding new appliances.
Then the Austines had the house appraised.
“I read the review, I looked at the number and I was like, ‘This is amazing,’” said Tate Austin.
The family tells ABC7 that their reviewer was an older white woman.
The Austines are convinced that race was a factor in his estimation.
The assessment contains what the family believes to be coded language, such as “Marin City is a Separate Area”.
The house was valued at $ 989,000, just $ 100,000 more than what the Austin valued it for before their renovations, despite costs of $ 400,000.
“It was a slap in the face,” Austin said.
The family immediately called their lender and pushed back. After a month of escalating their complaints, the Austines were approved for a second assessment.
When the day of the inspection came, they got creative in the process.
“We had a conversation with one of our white friends, and she said ‘No problem. I’ll be Tenisha. I’ll bring pictures of my family,’” Austin said. “She gave the impression that our house belonged to her.”
The house was valued at $ 1,482,000, about $ 500,000 more than she had appraised a few weeks earlier.
The change was equal to an increase in value of almost 50%.
The Austin were outraged. They believe this is another deplorable result of larger systemic problems in the United States.
“There are implications for our ability to build generational wealth or pass things down if our homes are rated 50% less than their value,” Tate Austin said.
“We know that discrimination is present in almost every aspect of this home buying process,” said Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights for the National Association of Realtors. “We have to approach it as an industry.
Discrimination in the housing market takes many forms and has a long history in our country and in the Bay Area.
The phenomenon has led to alarming rates of black Americans owning their own homes.
Black homeownership lags nationwide, with just 44% of black Americans owning their homes in 2020, according to Redfin. Compare that to 74% for white Americans.
In California, only 34% of black Californians own a home, according to the National Association of Realtors.
In the Bay Area, those numbers are even lower. According to Redfin, only 33% of black San Francisco residents own a home, compared to 61% of white San Franciscans.
The numbers are similar in San Jose with a black homeownership rate of 31% and a white homeownership rate of 65%.
“There are always problems in the housing industry for black people who are far from white neighborhoods,” said Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at Redfin. “Even though it’s technically illegal, or black people don’t have the same access to mortgages as whites.”
According to the National Association of Realtors, black applicants are turned down for mortgages at rates three times higher than those of white applicants.
Heavy debt, due to the wealth gap perpetuated by systemic racism, is another factor that suppresses black homeownership.
“African Americans have almost double the amount of student debt that we see for white homebuyers,” Lautz said.
The Great Recession and now the COVID-19 pandemic have only made matters worse.
Lautz points out that closing the property gap is essential to closing the wealth gap in our country. For this to become a reality, housing equity and access to affordable housing must be central concerns.
“If we are aware that there are implicit biases in other systems, the police, the school, why shouldn’t they also exist in the housing market? did you know, to remedy it? ” Austin said.
The Biden administration has come up with a few plans that could increase homeownership in the black community.
President Biden has proposed a tax credit of up to $ 15,000 to help first-time homebuyers with down payments and a $ 100 billion fund to build and upgrade affordable housing for homebuyers and buyers. tenants.
Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All rights reserved.