A neighborhood of houses in Elmont is seen in this...

A neighborhood of houses in Elmont is seen in this aerial photo from 2019.  Credit: Newsday/John Keating

The percentage of Americans who own their homes reached its highest point in a decade in 2020, but homeownership rates varied widely among different racial groups, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors.

In New York, Asian, Black and Hispanic homeownership rates lagged national averages. Among white New Yorkers, 66% owned their homes, while the rate was 52% for Asian American New Yorkers, 35% for Black New Yorkers and 28% for Hispanic New Yorkers. The state homeownership rate for Hispanics is the lowest in the country.

At the national level, the rates of households in owner-occupied units were 72% for white Americans, nearly 62% for Asian Americans, 51% for Hispanic Americans and 43% for Black Americans. The Black homeownership rate in the U.S. fell from 44% in 2010, while all other groups made gains. The result is a wider gap in homeownership rates between white and Black Americans.

"I’m saddened and angered by these numbers, but the worst thing is I’m not surprised," said Ian Wilder, executive director of Long Island Housing Services in Bohemia, which provides free housing counseling services. "The system we have has denied opportunity to certain sections of our population. It’s a systemic problem and requires a systemic solution."

Buyers looking for houses on Long Island have faced high prices and a record-low number of houses on the market. Those challenges are prevalent across the U.S., according to the National Association of Realtors, and have contributed to disparities.

"We’re seeing low inventory and rising home prices becoming a challenge for a lot of our minority buyers," said Brandi Snowden, NAR’s director of member and consumer survey research.

Among recent home buyers, Black and Hispanic households across the U.S. also faced higher rates of previous mortgage denials, at 7%, than the 4% of white Americans who were rejected for a home loan and the 3% of Asian Americans. Black Americans had the highest student loan burden and the greatest median student loan balance at $45,000, according to the report.

Homeownership data was drawn from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, while mortgage denial rates were calculated by NAR using federal mortgage data. Other findings were drawn from NAR's survey of homebuyers who made a purchase between July 2020 and June 2021.

A sizable portion of homebuyers told the National Association of Realtors they had experienced discrimination, such as steering toward or away from certain neighborhoods. NAR reported half of Hispanic buyers, 48% of Asian American buyers and 46% of Black buyers experienced steering.

Those findings echo Newsday’s 2019 Long Island Divided series, which documented evidence of housing discrimination, with unequal treatment occurring in 40% of undercover tests conducted during the three-year probe.

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a package of nine laws in December in response to Newsday’s reporting with the goal of fighting housing discrimination. The legislation set aside funding for fair housing testing to root out discrimination and increased training requirements for real estate professionals.

"We’ve been very busy," Wilder said of his nonprofit’s fair housing efforts. "A lot of that is thanks to the funding we’ve been able to get to expand the work we do. The process of testing and bringing a complaint and having those complaints come to some kind of finality can take quite a long time."

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