‘The benefits of affordable homeownership are too tremendous to ignore’
Viewpoints: As housing costs continue to rise, low-income families of color need more access to affordable housing and a pathway to homeownership, writes Donald Gilmore, executive director of Community Housing Development Corporation.
Homeownership is often considered a key component of the American dream, and at Community Housing Development Corporation, or CHDC, we take pride in helping families achieve a piece of that dream. CHDC was founded in 1990 in response to the need for establishing more affordable housing, eliminating racial disparities, and creating equitable access to housing for African Americans. Over the past 30 years, CHDC has responded to these challenges by building nearly 500 homes, investing over $250 million into our communities, and positively impacting more than 5,000 lives.
Homeownership brings a level of security, stability, and pride that affects many areas of a family’s life, including their overall health and ability to create wealth, a right all Americans should have. But the rising cost of housing in the San Francisco Bay Area — and in urban centers across the country — has only intensified the lack of affordable housing options. As a Black-led organization, we have to take a closer look at diversity, equity, and inclusion in the affordable housing industry.
Today’s shortage of affordable housing for lower-income families in the Bay Area, which is one of the most expensive regions in the country, negatively affects their long-term economic security. The 2020 median home sale price in California’s Alameda and Contra Costa Counties was $918,500 — nearly triple the nation’s average of $313,000 — and rent prices ranked in the top 20 nationally, with more than four in 10 renters spending over 30% of their income on housing. We cannot ignore that we are in a crisis.
With the impact of COVID-19, layoffs, and unemployment, the people we serve are experiencing a diminished capacity to meet basic life needs. In response, CHDC mobilized with partners like Wells Fargo to mitigate these disparities. Our organizations collaborated to establish a COVID-19 testing site in CHDC’s parking lot, coordinated food bank activities for families, supplied personal protective equipment, provided eviction prevention resources, and assisted homeowners with forbearance.
Even now, our goal is to further increase homeownership in the vulnerable areas we serve throughout the Bay Area. We continue this mission by providing thousands of dollars in down payment assistance through the Wells Fargo NeighborhoodLIFT® program, increasing housing opportunities for low-income families.
We are more committed than ever to educating our communities about pathways to financial stability and advocating for legal protections for renters and homeowners at risk of losing their homes. As an industry, we must center on the people most vulnerable — low-income families of color — in the housing programs we develop, the funding we secure, and the education we provide. As we collectively work to build a roadmap to eradicate these disparities, we must continue to:
- Focus on equity (fairness) or equality (sameness) when looking for solutions to affordable housing
- Collect and report data that identifies where disparities exist
- Create systems where all ethnicities have the unrestricted right to invest in real estate
- Educate our communities on real estate ownership as a bridge to wealth creation
- Advocate for affordable housing for all
The benefits of affordable homeownership are too tremendous to ignore. We also realize that homeownership is the most important source of wealth in our country. After 30 years of providing affordable housing and other support services to low-income communities, we’re joining the larger conversation with community partners about racial equity within the affordable housing market. However, it is more than just talking about equity, equality, diversity, and inclusion as concepts; it is about engaging in conversations that lead to action. I hope you’ll join us.