February 26, 2024
Families all across the United States are struggling to afford the cost of a home. Everywhere you look — cities, suburbs, rural areas — the stability that a home should bring remains out of reach for far too many people.
At Houston Habitat for Humanity, we know that a family should never have to spend more than 30% of their income on a home. But consider that even before the coronavirus pandemic, more than 18 million U.S. households were paying half or more of their income on a place to live.
According to the 2022 Kinder Houston Area Survey, a quarter of Houstonians are having difficulty paying their mortgage or rent. For African Americans, that number is about 40%. For Hispanics it is 37% and for whites it is 17%—both increasing significantly over the last year. Likewise, the share of people who could not cover a $400 emergency was starkly higher among these groups than for whites and Asians.
Now, as the economic impacts of the pandemic continue to be felt, millions of families are at risk of losing their homes. This is especially true for Black Americans and other people of color who were disproportionately impacted by the economic fallout of the crisis and who have faced greater housing unaffordability and insecurity. This is unacceptable.
There is a well-documented historic pattern of racial discrimination in housing and land use policies — at all levels of government — that still impact the makeup and opportunities of our communities. Hispanic and Black mortgage applicants face higher interest rates and more denials on lower-valued properties. And despite challenges in the mortgage market, Hispanic residents will soon become the largest share of homebuyers in the county. Hispanics are the only major racial/ethnic group with a growing homeownership rate in both Houston and the U.S. between 2020 and 2021.
Habitat serves a diverse range of homeowners. We provide more equitable access to low-cost financing that can help support building home equity. Mortgages for all Habitat homeowners, regardless of race, are priced to be affordable, with monthly payments kept at 30% or less of income. Habitat affiliates can create unique financing options that meet the needs of all of their homebuyers.
Houston Habitat provides homeownership opportunities that are accessible to homebuyers with low incomes who otherwise may not be able to access homeownership. This includes low-down-payment mortgages that are designed to work even for homeowners who lack pristine credit, thereby helping those homebuyers who are not able to secure traditional loan products.
Houstonians have a realistic view of these well documented racial disparities. We recognize it may be difficult to correct the racial bias in home appraisals and home loans as well as the disparities in local disaster recovery.
Almost every area in the U.S. faces a shortage of safe, decent and affordable homes, particularly homes available to those earning modest incomes. Houston, like much of our country, has long had a problem with supplying adequate affordable housing.
There is a direct impact on renters and homeowners alike, and especially Black and Hispanic households and those with the lowest incomes. Increasing the overall supply and accessibility of affordable homes is essential for increasing housing security and ensuring equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Investing in affordable housing production and preservation, and creating new tools for housing stability, are critical for closing homeownership gaps for people of color, preventing racial divides from growing, and achieving affordability and housing security for all.
Houston Habitat for Humanity is actively working to do the following:
At Houston Habitat for Humanity, we know that home isn’t just a building or real estate; it’s also the community in which you live, work and grow. As communities experience new development and investment, localities need systems in place to preserve affordability, expand opportunities for homeownership, and prevent the displacement of lower-income residents.
Habitat for Humanity advocates for anti-racist housing and land-use policies at the local, state and federal levels that seek to increase racial equity in homeownership. Greater than 90% of the families that Houston Habitat has served in its home ownership program are African-American and Hispanic, as are the neighborhoods that Houston Habitat works to revitalize.
Houston Habitat for Humanity is in the process of developing Robins Landing, a vibrant, new mixed-income community with highly coveted amenities, in Northeast Houston. Robins Landing will provide up to 500 units of multifamily and senior housing. It will also provide 468 affordable, single family homes for low-income Houstonians. The demographics of these new homeowners is expected to be consistent the census tract- 97% minority, including 64% Black, help Black families achieve homeownership, and addressing racial inequity.
Houston Habitat for Humanity and Habitat for Humanity International are actively pursuing policy and system changes that rectify unequal housing opportunities and affordability for people of color, close the homeownership gap, and create a healthier housing market with affordable opportunities for all.
Houston Habitat for Humanity is collaborating with Habitat for Humanity International and their Public Policy Solutions Task Force to support, advise and guide the development of policy priorities and positions of their Cost of Home Campaign at all levels of government. The task force will identify federal affordable housing policy priorities, guide the development of the federal policy agenda for the campaign, and identify and define state and local policy priorities for the four subthemes of the campaign.
Cost of Home Campaign, Habitat for Humanity International
2022 Kinder Institute Houston Area Survey, Rice Kinder Institute for Urban Research
2022 State of Housing Report, Rice Kinder Institute for Urban Research