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New Campaign Aims To Boost Numbers Of Latino And Black Homeowners

Image: File of new home is being built next to a home with a for sale sign on a street in Vienna

A new home is being built next to a home with a for sale sign on a street in Vienna, Virginia in this March 27, 2014 file photo. LARRY DOWNING / Reuters

While the housing market is more stable today than it was during the recent recession, many Latino and black families are still experiencing significant obstacles to become homeowners.

On Wednesday, the Hispanic Federation and the New York Urban League teamed up to launch a public education campaign called “¡Mi Primera Casa!” or “My First Home.”

The campaign is meant to raise awareness of the hurdles keeping communities of color from obtaining a home of their own and to advocate for changes. It also underscores the importance of homeownership for families of color as a means of helping communities build economic stability and wealth.

Nationwide, the share of Americans who own their homes stood at a 20-year low of 64 percent at the end of 2014, according to a report by the Census Bureau. Homeownership rates were even lower that year for Hispanic and black families, at 45 percent and 42 percent respectively.

“That’s a major disparity we want to address,” Jose Davila, vice president for policy and government relations for the Hispanic Federation, said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

Davila said one of the biggest obstacles keeping many Latino and black families from becoming homeowners is their ability to acquire wealth. “Our families, Latino and black, struggle to save money to pay rent and ultimately improve their credit in hopes of owning their own homes,” he said.

A recent Pew Research Center report found that the wealth gap between whites and communities of color is growing. According to the report, the median wealth of white households was $141,900 in 2013. That’s 10 times the median wealth of Hispanic households ($13,700) and 13 times the median wealth of black households ($11,000).

RELATED: Renewing Home Buying Confidence Has Framed Julián Castro's Year at HUD

But even the Latino and black families who are able to save up enough money to afford a home face obstacles. The biggest is being able to access home loans.

José Calderón, president of the Hispanic Federation, said that through the campaign he and others plan to highlight how Latino and black families “disproportionally face difficulty in accessing loans.” He noted that Latino and black families combined make up 30 percent of the U.S. population, yet they receive just 12 percent of the nation’s home loans.

“That needs to change,” Calderon said. “That’s a problem that’s systemic—that dates back many generations.”

Arva Rice, president and CEO of the New York Urban League, told reporters Wednesday that black families are not only being denied home loans at higher rates compared to other applicants, they’re also seeing rent costs go up. She noted that black families paid an average of $820 a month in rent in 2012, up from $686 in 2005.

“We are also paying an extraordinary amount of money in rent and that rent does not have any long term investment in our families or in our communities,” Rice said.

As part of the campaign, Calderón and Rice said they also plan to pressure Congress and the Obama administration to restore Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to independence so that the firms can return to their mission of improving access to homeownership among Latino and black families.

Created by the federal government, the firms work with mortgage lenders to help people access lower mortgage rates and to ultimately raise the levels of homeownership. But after the 2008 financial meltdown, the federal government placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into conservatorship, meaning the firms began operating under the direction of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

The launching of the campaign came a day after Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro spoke at the 2015 Fair Housing Policy Conference about how families of color continue to be affected by housing discrimination. He pointed to study his department did recently that found families of color are shown fewer places and quoted higher prices.

“And communities remain highly-segregated by race, by national origin, by income—so there’s still work to do,” Castro added. He also said he’s working with a network of partners that are “taking pro-active steps to promote better quality housing and greater housing choice for all.”

“This work is paying off,” he said. “Over the past six years, we’ve helped get $330 million in compensation for more than 49,000 individuals that were allegedly subjected to housing discrimination.”

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