Charlotte Crown Black Real Estate Association wants residents to know about resources to keep them in their homes and strategies to increase Black homeownership. The group recently hosted its “Pandemic, Protests & Policy” legislative forum that focused on local, state and federal initiatives assisting Black tenants and homeowners during the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this year, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers President Donnell Williams visited Charlotte to present the State of Housing in Black America (SHIBA) report. He shared that Black homeownership slightly improved from 40.6% in the second quarter of 2019 to 44% at the end of the year. It still lags nearly 30 percentage points behind white homeownership at 73.7%.
During last month’s virtual forum, NAREB executive director Antoine Thompson discussed coronavirus relief programs like the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act that reserved $100 billion for rental assistance and $75 billion for a homeowner assistance fund to help with mortgage payments, property taxes, utility bills and more. Approximately 60% of funding would benefit homeowners below 80% area median income.
NAREB is also advocating to expand HUD Section 184 of the Housing and Community Development Act to include African Americans. The act currently helps American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians afford homeownership through low-interest mortgage loans.
“We believe that there needs to be a full-court press to help African Americans to be included in the HUD 184 act to specifically address historic discrimination against African Americans,” Thompson said.
The push is part of NAREB’s larger call-to-action to eliminate systemic barriers to Black homeownership like unfair housing laws and insurance rates based on zip codes. Thompson referenced how African Americans have been redlined for more than 30 years, making it legal to give mortgage assistance to white homeowners and not to African Americans.
District 4 City Council member Renee Johnson also served as a panelist and acknowledged Charlotte’s housing crisis. Affordability remains a challenge for potential homebuyers with rising home prices sharply outpacing employee wages.
According to Canopy Realtor Association data, the median sales price for a home in Mecklenburg County was $370,042 last month. The average rent for an apartment in Charlotte is $1,259, up six percent from last year, according to Rent Cafe. In comparison, the latest census data reports the median household income in Mecklenburg County is $64,312. The equations raise questions about where residents can live without being house-burdened.
“We are trying to answer the needs of the community. I’m fighting for equity and homeownership,” Johnson said.
The councilwoman offered resources like the HouseCharlotte program that provides funds for eligible families to cover down payments, closing costs and interest rate buy-downs. Knowing that some homeowners or tenants may be facing outstanding balances caused by the pandemic, Johnson shared information about the Disputes Settlement program, a free service through the City of Charlotte to mediate and negotiate landlord-tenant conflicts related to evictions.
“We have to be intentional about homeownership in Charlotte. We are challenged with transforming neighborhoods and gentrification,” she said. “We must be intentional about helping individuals who are current homeowners to maintain their village.”