Quarter 2 2021, Volume 9 Issue 2
The Center for NYC Neighborhood's Black Homeownership Project
Since 2008, the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, a local housing counseling agency (HCA) serving all five New York City boroughs, has helped homeowners at risk of foreclosure in New York City and throughout the state stay in their homes. In the years since the 2008 financial crisis, the Center has expanded the scope of its work to:
- Provide a wider range of services, such as FloodHelpNY and HomeFix
- Research the biggest issues affecting homeowners
- Advocate for policies to preserve and protect affordable homeownership
Housing counseling is a component of many of the Center’s programs, such as the Black Homeownership Project (BHP). The BHP recognizes that people of color in the United States have long faced barriers to accessing mortgage credit and the asset-building power of homeownership. In New York City, the obstacles faced by Black families pursuing homeownership are augmented by the additional challenges of soaring prices amid a tight lending environment. The COVID-19 national emergency has exacerbated these long-standing inequalities.
Black and Latinx Americans have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 national emergency, with deep economic impacts and greater rates of infection and death.1 In response to this data, the Center launched the BHP to explore how to strengthen and expand Black homeownership in New York City by drawing on the expertise of housing counselors and community partners. Findings from the BHP suggest Black New Yorkers continue to face high barriers to achieve and sustain homeownership. Black homebuyers pay an average of $7,000 more in closing costs than other groups and still receive mortgage originations at relatively fewer rates. New York City’s high-cost market exacerbates these barriers and imposes additional challenges on families struggling to purchase a home in their current communities. Housing counselors also use BHP data to inform their counseling and gain a greater understanding of the barriers faced by vulnerable populations. More of the project’s findings can be accessed on the BHP website.
The Center has worked on solutions to address and reduce the racial wealth and homeownership gaps in New York City through the BHP. The project’s goal is to develop a slate of transformative proposals and interventions to identify new pathways to protect, support, and grow homeownership among New York’s Black communities. This is achieved by leveraging existing organizations and resources to address and reduce the racial wealth gap. The project's success relies on input and expertise from community organizations, HCAs, community boards, homeowners, and New York City residents.
For the past two years, a cross-departmental team of roughly twenty Center employees collaborated to identify ten pilot interventions to uplift, equalize, and strengthen Black homeownership in NYC. This was achieved by:
- Conducting research on past and current interventions supporting black homeownership
- Analyzing detailed data sets
- Holding focus groups and one-on-one interviews with Black homeowners and prospective homeowners, real estate professionals, and housing counselors to solicit information about challenges, needs, and concerns around homeownership for Black New Yorkers
After soliciting feedback from a variety of stakeholders, the BHP selected five interventions with the greatest potential impact, and unveiled them at the Center’s 2020 Affordable Homeownership Summit. The interventions launched on the BHP website include:
- Down Payment Assistance Navigator – Collecting down payment assistance resources through a digital tool for homebuyers and counselors
- Savings Accelerator – Building the financial capability of both aspiring and existing homeowners by matching savings
- Pathways to Tenant Purchase – Organizing tenants to purchase multi-family buildings
- Estate Planning – Increasing education about and funding for estate planning for low-to-moderate-income homeowners
- Homeowner Landlord Services – Providing education and assistance for landlords of 1-4-unit buildings
The Center is an important advocate in its community and continues to support the impact homeownership can have on their clients’ lives through housing counseling. Its housing counselors are deeply committed to uplifting and strengthening Black communities and to making New York City a place where Black homeowners and their families can thrive.
BHP data indicates that if Black and Latinx families were as likely as White families to own their homes, median Black wealth would grow by $32,000 and the wealth gap between Black and White households would shrink 31 percent. Median Latinx wealth would grow by $29,000 and the wealth gap with White households would shrink 28 percent.