'It's baked into the system': Data shows housing segregation persists across the Triangle

ByAkilah Davis, Samantha Kummerer, and Maggie Green WTVD logo
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
Data shows housing segregation persists across the Triangle
For many Americans, homeownership means independence, but the path to that goal isn't paved the same for everyone.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- For many Americans, homeownership means independence, but the path to that goal isn't paved the same for everyone.

Decades after the passage of the U.S. Fair Housing Act, housing patterns across the country reveal segregation persists in many communities.

An ABC OTV Data Team analysis of 2019 Census data uncovered 99 of the top 100 metro areas across the country had "extreme inequities" in homeownership, meaning a more than 25% gap between white homeowners and nonwhite homeowners. The data highlighted the uphill battle many minorities continue to face in becoming homeowners.

In the Raleigh-Cary metro area, which includes Wake, Franklin, and Johnston counties, 73.6% of White residents own homes, while only 45.5% of Black residents and 47.1% of Latino residents are homeowners.

Similar disparities exist in the Durham-Chapel Hill metro area, which include Durham, Orange, Person, Granville and Chatham counties. There, White residents are 1.5 times more likely to own a home than nonwhite residents.

Rochello Sparko, the director of North Carolina Policy at the Centers for Responsible Lending, explained that communities of color are facing homeownership challenges daily.

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"It is baked into the system that it is difficult for ... Black people who want to take on home mortgages to have difficulty doing that," she said.

The Centers for Responsible Lending is a nonprofit research and policy organization that aims to create a fair financial marketplace by focusing on minority and low-income communities.

Sparko explained the disparities in ownership aren't because minority residents don't want to own homes. Instead, she points to historical real estate practices and longstanding racial wealth gaps as barriers that communities of color are still combating.

"It is possible that some of that is about overt discrimination, but a lot of it is sort of all of these impacts coming together, whether it's more difficulty applying for an FHA mortgage loan because of student loan debt. It might be because your family lost a great deal of wealth in the foreclosure crisis 10 or so years ago. You know there are any number of reasons why we see this difference in homeownership rates, and I think what we are beginning to recognize and talk about more is the need for targeted interventions to address that," Sparko said.

Sparko said, on average, it takes Black Americans five more years to save enough money to buy a house than White Americans. She explained a major delay in generating wealth for individuals of color is student loan debt.

"We know that student loan debt adds time to save money for a down payment because so much of your disposable income is going to pay your student loan debt. And so what we see is years added on to the amount of time it takes to save for a home loan if you're relying only on income, and a lot of times, households of color are relying solely on income because their families don't have intergenerational family wealth to help kids buy their first home," Sparko said.

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Durham resident Nicole Burgess is one of the people seeking to overcome these barriers and become a homeowner.

"We don't want to be living paycheck to paycheck our whole life so the more property we have or any property that we have is our ability to move away from that paycheck-to-paycheck life," Burgess explained.

She said growing up, her parents built their own home and the memories she created there meant everything for her. Last year, at 35 years old, Burgess and her boyfriend decided they were ready to buy a home and create their own memories for future children.

After months of saving and then searching and submitting bids and losing bids, they finally won a house. But their moment of triumph quickly turned to defeat when the house didn't appraise. Suddenly, Burgess owned an additional $10,000; money she didn't budget for.

"I don't have that money in my savings account. I had enough to cover the due diligence and some miscellaneous things like, you know, extra things that we'd have for moving, but I didn't have $10,000," she said.

The couple lost the house and around $3,000, money they saved during the past year to put toward their future. For Burgess, the setback wasn't just financial.

"I mean it's costing me my plans in life. I was planning on by the time I was this age having a home and starting a family and now that's delayed," Burgess said.

Despite the setback, Burgess has restarted the process of saving again and remains hopeful she can one day own a home.

Sparko said the inequities in homeownership have long-lasting impacts that span further than an individual's housing.

"Where you live dictates a lot of what happens to you as a person," Sparko said. "It dictates where you're going to go to school. It dictates whether you live near a company that pollutes in some way. It dictates whether you have access to transportation or not."