DC mayor announces fund to help more Black residents buy homes

A wealth divide in D.C. has resulted in far fewer families of color making the leap into homeownership. The city’s mayor hopes to change that through a new homeowner initiative.

“We feel there is more to do to preserve the diversity of our city,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

According to the Urban Institute, of Black residents in D.C., only 34% own their homes compared to nearly 49% of white residents. The wealth divide becomes far more striking when looking at average incomes.

In the city, a first-time homebuyer with the average white household income could afford 71% of the homes sold between 2016 and 2020, which also includes Wards 7 and 8. In comparison, a first-time homebuyer with the average Black household income could afford only 8.4% of the homes sold.

In her proposed budget to the D.C. city council, Bowser said $10 million will be used to establish the Black Ownership Fund. To help decide how the fund will be used, Bowser on Thursday announced the formation of the Black Homeownership Strike Force. Bowser said the group will consist of housing experts and be tasked with coming up with ways to close the gap.

“The wealth gap in the District of Columbia is exacerbated by the homeownership gap, which exists in no small part because of discriminatory policies supported by the federal government, such as redlining,” said Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio in a news release.

“One way to overcome intentional policies like redlining is to find new ways to greenlight homeownership,” Falcicchio said.

Redlining is the practice of refusing a loan or insurance to someone who lives in an area deemed to be a poor or financial risk.

Bowser said the task force will get to work immediately and deliver its recommendations by the summer. She added that the program will allow the city to move forward once the council approves the budget.

“This effort is one more way we can put homeownership within reach for Black Washingtonians while helping longtime residents keep and maintain their homes,” Bowser said.

Bowser, who is running for reelection this year, also said the budget includes initiatives that would support homeownership, including legal help to families who want to keep their homes for generations to come.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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