Fighting Housing Discrimination in Oregon Will Take All of Us
Homeownership is for everyone, right? Unfortunately, that hasn’t always been the case. The housing industry as a whole has an ugly and complicated history of discrimination stretching back to slavery. Homeownership is one of the most efficient ways to build wealth yet, in late 2020, Black Americans had a 44.0% rate of homeownership, Hispanic Americans had a 49.0% rate of homeownership, and Asian, Native, Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Americans had a 60.0% rate of homeownership. White Americans, on the other hand, had a 75.0% rate of homeownership. Unfortunately, the divide is even deeper right here in Oregon.
A December 2019 report from a local task force revealed that Black Oregonians make up the smallest percentage of homeowners at a lower-than-average 32.2%. The rate for White Oregonians is nearly double that figure at 65.5%. As a real estate agent, it’s important to both understand the painful history behind this discrepancy and take action to promote equity in homeownership in Oregon and beyond.
A Brief History of Oregon’s Racial Housing Discrimination
The Beaver State’s history of housing discrimination stretches all the way back to 1844 with the passage of the state’s first Black exclusion law, which dictated that Black settlers in Oregon were to be publicly whipped until they left the state. Not long after, Oregon’s 1857 Constitution promised married White men 1,300 acres of free land while explicitly banning entrance, property ownership, and residency for Black people. In 1870, Oregon also became one of only six states to oppose the 15th amendment, which granted Black men the right to vote.
In the years since, redlining, racial steering, and discriminatory mortgage lending practices barred Black Oregonians from a shot at fair and equitable homeownership. The Fair Housing Act, which prevents exclusion in real estate, was eventually adopted at a national level in 1968 but, unfortunately, discrimination remains pervasive today. "Homeownership is a huge opportunity for a family to build intergenerational wealth," said state Rep. Mark Meek, who leads the aforementioned task force that produced the 2019 report. "It is alarming and disturbing to see the inequity and imbalance of homeownership for Oregonians of color."
Oregon’s Path Forward
While the data may seem bleak, progress is unfolding across the housing industry. To combat the ugly effects of racial bias in homeownership, banks are now offering grants aimed at raising minority homeownership rates, individuals across the nation are standing up in their communities, and NAR is working to provide their members with the tools for change.
“Last year, NAR worked with [The National Association of Real Estate Brokers] and the Urban Institute to develop a five-point framework to boost minority homeownership,” said NAR Vice President Vince Malta. “We’ve also developed innovative new training programs on implicit bias and confronting discrimination in real-life real estate scenarios… In January, we began implementing our new “ACT” plan – which emphasizes Accountability, Culture Change, and Training – designed to ensure REALTORSⓇ are doing everything possible to protect housing rights in America. We’re also working with our partners to develop a second ACT plan that advocates for housing policy that addresses systemic discrimination and the legacy of housing segregation.”
How Can Oregon Real Estate Agents Fight Housing Discrimination?
With change on the horizon, there’s no better time to become an advocate in your community. Work to recognize and shed your own racial biases, volunteer, donate, and be sure to report any discrimination you may come across in the field. After all, securing universal equity in homeownership will take all of us!
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