Tag Archives: black homeownership

Closing The Wealth Gap: HBCU Couples Should Prioritize Two Homesteads Before Marriage

Owning a home is a keystone of wealth – both financial affluence and emotional security. – Suze Orman

Poor people know they are poor. Unfortunately, it is the African American working and middle class who do not know they are also poor. The problematic reality that because you can buy something does not mean you can afford it plagues much of African America’s working and middle class. These tend to be households who have higher education, higher incomes, and higher homeownership rates – but they also tend to have financial net worths that are just as poor as – well, the poor. Why? They tend to be more acutely indebted due to their education, home, car, and consumer poor, just as financially illiterate, and almost always just as asset poor as their poor counterparts in the African American community. However, any conversation about passive or investment income or financial health as a pillar in line with mental health and other priorities of a well functioning household is often met with angst or disgust. The prioritization of asset accumulation over consumption is met with more resistance than Americans against British taxation without representation – and we know how that ended. But not to worry, there seems to be no revolution brewing here (sarcasm). African American wealth accumulation continues to be an afterthought of the African American household. Upper middle class, affluent, rich, or wealthy being a thought of more as something for “others” and not ourselves. The achievement of degrees, a house, cars, and consumption is all we seem to believe life requires. Should times get tough, many within the community will tell you that a second job, a better paying job, or more education is more times than not the answer to a “better” life. Again, wealth and asset accumulation not so much.

How dire is the wealth situation for African America? Bloomberg recently reported that Black-White wealth gap has not budged in the past 40 plus years and is actually trending worse. McKinsey and Company report that nearly 20 percent of African American households have a negative net worth. The National Community Reinvestment Council’s report shows, “African Americans, who in many categories have the greatest gender economic equality, have the greatest gender wealth disparity though still having little wealth compared to Whites. Single Black men’s median wealth was $10,100, compared to Single Black women’s median wealth of $1,700.” An immense issue when one considers that the majority of African American households are headed up by single African American women. One would certainly suggest that because women are the load bearers for raising and providing for African American children and often extended family that this has also severely hampered their ability to accumulate wealth. An issue that is not as prevalent for African American men. None the less, it proves dire for the community as a whole that this is the case. Last but certainly not least (or all), there is the matter that African American homeownership has never breached above 50 percent which for the majority of families serves as the foundation that a lot of intergenerational wealth is built upon.

One of the general wedges to the wealth gap is asset ownership. Two-thirds of African American wealth according to Bloomberg is held in housing and very little in other asset classes like stocks in particular. This has presented an acute problem over the past 70 years as Bloomberg reports, “stocks have appreciated five times as much as housing prices.” However, the complexity of wealth without a conversation around income and disposable income which is income left over after expenses that can be used for savings and investing is vital to the conversation. African American median income is $45,870 according to Statista, the highest it has been in the past 30 years. The problem of course is that it remains the lowest of all four ethnic groups tracked (see graph below) with Latinos, European, and Asian Americans having median incomes of $55,321, $74,912, $94,903, respectively. Unfortunately, there is not a high enough savings rate that could truly overcome this lack of income. Despite the perception, African Americans are savers in line with their European American counterparts. Again, you can not catch up in a race running at the same speed as someone who is 100 yards ahead of you. This is the problem for African America. We are trying to save and invest at the same rate as those who have in most cases six times our wealth. So if home ownership is already our largest asset, then why are we suggesting that African American couples prioritize having two going into a marriage rather than one after they get married?

Every HBCU state except for Pennsylvania offers a homestead exemption. What is the homestead exemption? According to Investopedia, “The homestead exemption is a way to minimize property taxes for homeowners. It is also a legal provision offered in most states that helps shield a home from some creditors following the death of a homeowner’s spouse or the declaration of bankruptcy. The homestead tax exemption can provide surviving spouses with ongoing property tax relief, which is done on a graduated scale so that homes with lower assessed values benefit the most. The homestead exemption is helpful since it is designed to provide both physical shelter and financial protection, which can block the forced sale of a primary residence.” A person or couple can only have one homestead at a time, unless they both enter into the marriage with their own homestead. At which point, both parties are allowed to retain their individual homesteads. This means both properties will be taxed at a reduced rate creating more disposable income. Something they would not be able to do if they simply purchased a second home later in the marriage. What is that second homestead worth potentially?

According to Mortgage Calculator, the average annual property taxes in the United States is approximately $3,800. The homestead exemption typically saves approximately $500 off of that tax bill. That $500 invested annually for 30 years at 8 percent return is worth over an extra $60,000 to a household and that is just the tax savings reinvested. Naturally, the second homestead would be rented out by the couple and used to generate additional passive income. Assuming the couple could generate a profit of $200 per month or $2,400 annually off that second property, they now have $2,900 to invest annually which over the course of 30 years at 8 percent return is worth over $350,000. We have not even added on the building of the equity from appreciation or the extremely low interest rates that accompany homestead properties versus traditional investment properties. Banks are far more likely to see a homestead property as a lower risk than investment properties which they believe a borrower is more likely to walk away from than those that are homesteaded. Equity borrowed from the home could be used to reduce the households general tax bill overall further, leveraged to purchase non-homestead investment properties, or simply borrowed and used to invest in the stock market and because it is seen as “debt” does not carry tax liability on it. In other words, if a couple borrows $50,000 of equity out of their homestead property and make $10,000 on it, then they would only be paying taxes on the $10,000 but you still actually have $60,000 at your disposal. Whereas if you saved $50,000 and then made $10,000 on it, then you would be paying taxes on the entire $60,000. That almost $3,000 per year that would be coming from that property would also be an increase of 6 percent on the African American median income.

In the end of it all, assets and income go hand in hand. The more assets a family has the more income they produce and vice versa. In some ways, it is the epitome of the chicken and the egg conversation. For most African Americans, whom we see are highly unlikely to receive inheritance (see graph above) it becomes all about their family’s initial income and the race to acquire assets. Grievously, far too many African American families get the income and never convert it into assets. Taking advantage of prioritizing this little loophole can provide a family an extra $1 million in asset value and $80,000 in passive income if properly managed. An amount that currently would equal almost two times the African American median income. It is these small decisions that could have a monumental impact on the future of African American wealth and the closing of the wealth gap. In order for this to work as part of an overall strategy, HBCU alumni must prioritize having a sense of urgency about their finances and then be strategic about wealth and asset accumulation before tying the knot.

Texas Southern University Host NAREB’s Black Homeownership Summit

“We need to intentionally invest in health, in home ownership, in entrepreneurship, in access to democracy, in economic empowerment. If we don’t do these things, we shouldn’t be surprised that racial inequality persists because inequalities compound.” – Pete Buttigieg

On the campus of Texas Southern University on November 4th and 5th, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, an organization representing the interest of African American real estate professionals, hosted a homeownership summit with focuses on not only homeownership, but also student debt, access to credit, and investing. The importance of such an event being held on an HBCU campus can not be understated.

Intertwining African American institutions with each other has long been a struggle for the community’s development with African American institutions often operating on islands instead of a connected ecosystem. Events like NAREB’s Black Homeownership Summit at Texas Southern University helps highlight the power, potential, and scalability of what happens when African American (and Diaspora) institutions work together. What better place to address Black homeownership after all than on the campus of an HBCU? Soon to be African American graduates and professionals will be at the vanguard of trying to close the acute homeownership crisis that African America continues to face (graph below).

One of the keynote speakers at the NAREB Black Homeownership Summit event was Teresa Bryce Bazemore, CEO and President of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, speaking exclusively to HBCU Money about the event said, “We need all the parties in the housing finance industry and other stakeholders to collectively work to eliminate the barriers to homeownership. In this new environment, all consumers including Black and Brown people should be able to participate equally in the dream of homeownership. We need initiatives that can help potential buyers with improving their credit, saving for down payments and understanding the entire home buying process from A to Z. We also need to make sure that the lending rules are equitable.”

HBCU Money’s Suggested Five Initiatives For HBCUs Can/Should Be But Not Limited Too:

  • Making financial literacy a mandatory part of matriculation for HBCU students. This can be done through the financial aid office, workshops, or a class.
  • Providing HBCU students work study jobs that go into the community at African American K-12 schools and teaching financial literacy.
  • Partnering with African American owned banks and credit unions. Due to their deposit bases, many African American owned banks and credit unions simply can not participate in the primary mortgage market and there are few to none African American owned non-bank mortgage lenders. This leaves the African American community in an extremely vulnerable position to predatory lending as has been demonstrated and shown time and time again. HBCUs are a key to growing assets within African American financial institutions through students, alumni, and institutionally.
  • Offering more scholarships for ALL students. Scholarships are purposed to reduce student loan debt, but they are often resigned to high achieving students despite the majority of students being in the middle. This becomes highly problematic for African Americans who usually do not have the familial wealth to assist in paying down or off their student loan debt. HBCUs while cheaper than our PWI counterparts on the whole could be doing even more to reduce the student loan debt burden for African American students by ensuring that any student who is academically eligible has an opportunity to reduce their student loan debt burden. This provides an opportunity upon graduation that more of their initial paycheck is going towards wealth building and potential homeownership rather than debt burden.
  • Encouraging the use of startups like HBCU Real Estate, who has part of their mission statement to use a portion of their profits to provide down payment assistance for HBCU alumni who seek to purchase primary or investment properties.

Homeownership and real estate ownership have long been a cornerstone to establishing generational wealth in the United States. Despite this, the African American homeownership has never crossed over the 50 percent threshold and according to MarketWatch and has always maintained a 20-30 percentage point gap between African and European Americans. African America’s civilian noninsittuional population as of October 2021 was 33.7 million and its civilian labor force is 20.6 million and the African American labor force 20 and over is 19.9 million. Assuming that 44 percent of the 19.9 million are homeowners (8.7 million), it would take approximately 1.5 million more African Americans to become homeowners to get African America above 51 percent. Based on the most recent data provided by Zillow, the typical value of U.S. homes is $308,220 as of September 2021. Between 1999 and 2021, the median price has almost tripled from $111,000 to $308,220. This means in order for those 1.5 million to acquire homes they would need down payments of approximately $16.2 billion using FHA’s 3.5 percent down financing or $10,800 per potential African American homebuyer. While it does not on the surface seem like a lot to many, that number represents almost 45 percent of the African American median net worth, but a mere 6 percent of European American median net worth.

Just for perspective on that $16.2 billion, there are no African Americans with a net worth more than that, but there are 45 Americans whose single net worth exceeds $16.2 billion. The road to achieving more African American homeownership will be no small task, but events like NAREB/Texas Southern will go a long way in us doing the hard work together, lifting the heavy load together, and ultimately achieving our goal together.