‘We haven’t made any progress’: Black homeownership is stuck near 30-year lows
Jani Tillery, 42, is an attorney at the Children’s Law Center in Washington who has been looking for homes since October. She’s made three offers since the end of November but lost to other bidders and she’s having a hard time finding homes in her price range of less than $200,000. (Andre Chung/for The Washington Post)
Jani Tillery thought she would be a homeowner by now.
Her parents bought a house in the Detroit suburbs in the late 1970s while living on a modest income. Her mother was a teacher. Her father worked in the automotive industry. They raised their children in the house and paid off the mortgage. They will probably live there in retirement and possibly pass the house — not only a home with rich sentimental value but also a sizable financial asset — on to their children.
Tillery, 42, hoped this would finally be the year she, too, could buy. She’s a lawyer at a nonprofit in Washington, and she recently got a promotion and raise.
Yet, she says, this part of the American Dream seems out of reach for her, as it is for many other African American workers despite notable strides in other aspects of their finances.
In many ways, African Americans have regained the ground lost during the financial crisis. Many are finding jobs and getting raises.
But the holy grail of homeownership remains elusive. Forty-three percent of blacks owned homes in 2017, according to an annual report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. In contrast, 72 percent of whites did, a gap that has mostly widened during the past three decades.
[A minimum-wage worker can’t afford a 2-bedroom apartment anywhere in the U.S.]
“The overall frustration is, I am a working citizen. I pay my taxes. I’m doing a job to help kids,” said Tillery, whose nonprofit helps children with disabilities. “It’s better for me to own a home. I’m 42. I don’t want to continue renting.”
There aren’t many homes in the area that fall into her price range of $200,000 or less. When she sees a listing she can afford, she either loses out to a buyer who will pay more or waive contingencies or learns that the property isn’t approved for Federal Housing Administration mortgages, which she is relying on because they require lower down payments than conventional loans.