4 Podcasts That Will Help You Understand Housing Inequality in the U.S.

4 Podcasts That Will Help You Understand Housing Inequality in the U.S.

Housing inequality is now a more timely topic than ever. Back in 2019, there were almost 6.5 million Black homeowners in the United States, putting the Black homeownership rate at 42 percent, as low as it was in the 1960s. Meanwhile, the rate of white homeownership was 73 percent, according to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

In 2020, the homeownership rate gap between Black and white households grew even further. The U.S. homeownership rate experienced the largest annual increase on record, climbing to 65.5 percent, up 1.3 percent from 2019. The Black homeownership rate increased to 43.3 percent, yet it is still lower than a decade ago, according to the National Association of Realtors

This gap is so significant that not even in the 100 cities with the largest Black populations is the Black homeownership rate close to the white homeownership rate — this includes places where Black households are the majority, like Albany, Georgia, according to the Urban Institute

Housing inequality is one of the biggest contributing factors to the wealth gap that exists between white and Black families, as well as other communities of color, because homeownership is the principal way of creating generational wealth. As this gap continues to widen, it is important to be educated on the contributing factors to these issues, the people experiencing this inequity, and the misunderstandings that exist. Below, find four educational podcasts for folks wanting to learn more about housing justice.

SOLD OUT: Rethinking Housing in America 

Created by KQED, a non-profit public media company based in the Bay Area in California, SOLD OUT: Rethinking Housing in America is a podcast detailing the struggle of housing inequality in California, the nation’s epicenter of the ongoing housing crisis. Episodes explore topics such as evictions and zoning policies, as well as the racism, inequity, and power structures that influence these issues. The program introduces the audience to the real people undergoing this battle for housing security and the people fighting for change. SOLD OUT is hosted by Erin Baldassari and Molly Solomon. 

There Goes The Neighborhood: Race & Gentrification

A podcast launched by WNYC and The Nation, There Goes The Neighborhood: Race & Gentrification takes an in-depth look at the gentrification of Brooklyn, as well as the role race plays in the process. Episodes detail the stories of people of color who were forced out of the communities they’ve lived for generations. The podcast is hosted by Kai Wright and also has editions created for Miami and Los Angeles. 

We The Unhoused is a podcast that uplifts the voices of the unhoused in Los Angeles and beyond. Hosted by Theo Henderson, who is currently unhoused and lives in Chinatown, Los Angeles, the program covers issues impacting unhoused people such as police brutality, harassment, policy, and survival. Issues such as the cost of living, gentrification, health struggles, and solutions such as harm reduction and trauma-informed care are also discussed through a series of interviews. 

Opportunity Starts at Home

The Opportunity Starts at Home podcast takes a deep look at the connection between where you live and your ability to achieve the American Dream. The podcast is hosted by Mike Koprowski, the national director of the Opportunity Starts at Home, which is a multi-sector campaign to meet the rental housing needs of the nation’s low-income populations. 

Mili Mansaray

Contributor

Mili Mansaray is a writer whose work covers everything from porch paint colors to voting rights. She received a degree in journalism and Africana studies from New York University, where she served as a staff writer for Washington Square News. Since graduating in May 2020, she has also been published in The Beacon and Cooper Squared.

The Reason LGBTQ+ Buyers Are Still Facing Discrimination in the Housing Market

The Reason LGBTQ+ Buyers Are Still Facing Discrimination in the Housing Market

When Abbie Wise and Steph Alexander bought their first home in Tukwila, Washington, in September 2021, they didn’t know what to expect. From the outside, the process seemed opaque and tedious; luckily, they worked with a real estate agent who was also a friend and ex-co-worker, and one whose agency just so happened to specialize in helping first-time home buyers navigate the market. 

“He is a friend, but he’s also a gay man and bought a house with his partner,” Wise says. “So I felt really comfortable asking him any questions, or saying anything, and part of that was because we were old co-workers but part of that was definitely because he was also gay.”

That trifecta — co-worker, friend, fellow queer person — meant that for Wise and Alexander, the homebuying process was totally free of discrimination. But not all prospective homebuyers have the same experience. According to an annual report by the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, “significant discrimination remains,” and only 25.9 percent of respondents believe that discrimination against LGBTQ+ homebuyers has actually decreased. 

“Discrimination” can mean anything from the unconscious bias of a real estate agent to a seller blatantly refusing to sell their home because of the prospective buyer’s LGBTQ+ identity. In other words, as in many other industries, prejudice runs the gamut — even when it is against the law (it’s been officially illegal since a Supreme Court ruling and subsequent Executive Order in 2020 and 2021, respectively). Real estate coach Dr. Lee Davenport, who specializes in diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI, says that though fair housing legislation is helpful, agents must do more.

“Fair housing still requires a concerted, collective effort despite being in our legal lexicon,” Davenport says. “Despite how often we hear the phrase, the actual application of ‘fair housing’ is not yet so part of our culture that it is intuitive — it is not like breathing. In order to work toward a more equitable experience for all, we real estate pros have to be willing to proactively confront unfair housing.”

Apart from getting educated about federal, state, and local anti-discrimination legislation, real estate agents must also check their own conscious and unconscious biases; according to the report, 20.7 percent of those surveyed “identified ​​real estate agents as the leading culprit in how housing discrimination occurs against the LGBTQ+ real estate home buyer.” Often, it’s simply a case of asking questions sans judgment, says Juan Luis Sanchez, who is president of Bear Facts Realty in Denver, Colorado.

“Any agent should get to know their client and find out what their needs are, but I think sometimes agents who haven’t worked with the community are embarrassed to ask certain questions, so they just make assumptions instead,” he says. “And I think it’s the same way for the community. They might be proud and stuff, but they still are nervous about telling Realtors who aren’t part of the community that, you know, they’re LGBTQ, because they are still afraid that they’ll be pigeonholed.” 

Sanchez is gay, Hispanic, and Native American, and started Bear Facts Realty in 2020 to cater to the needs of clients who were being underserved by traditional real estate companies. His office is one where (almost) anything goes — green hair; head-to-toe tattoos; couples looking for a closet fit for a drag queen or a home near the leather community. “I think that’s what has led to our success, is that people can come into our office and feel comfortable being whoever they are. They know that there’s no judgment.”

The LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance report comes at a time when an historic number of anti-LGBTQ bills are being signed into law across the country. And though 72 percent of respondents do feel that their local industry has placed an increased emphasis on DEI in the last three years, it’s clear that there’s more work to be done. 

Gen Z’s increased willingness to identify as LGBTQ+ (20.8 percent compared to 7.1 percent of adults nationwide), coupled with a rise in LGBTQ+ homeownership since the pass of marriage equality in 2015, means that the number of queer people navigating the real estate market — whether renting or buying — is only going to increase. If agents hope to serve this growing cohort of clients well, says Sanchez, it’s up to them to meet them where they’re at — however they identify.

Asian Americans Are Denied for Mortgages More Often Than White Applicants

Asian Americans Are Denied for Mortgages More Often Than White Applicants

In the U.S., homeownership isn’t just part of the “American Dream” or an exemplar of financial success — it’s a proven method of building generational wealth and securing access to high quality public services like education. But a new study put out by the Urban Institute reports that when compared with white mortgage applicants, who have the highest approval and homeownership rate of any racial group, Asian applicants are turned away more often despite having higher incomes and credit scores. So in a country where homeownership is fundamental, Asian would-be homeowners are getting left behind.

Currently, the homeownership rate for Asian households hovers around 60 percent, compared with 72 percent of white households. When applying for loans, applicants can be denied for a number of reasons, including possessing a high debt-to-income ratio (DTI) or low credit score, or offering an incomplete credit application. But even when researchers scrutinized identical application factors of income and DTI between white and Asian applicants, they found Asian applicants were still turned away more frequently. 

“We find that this long-standing relationship between credit scores and denial rates is completely upended for Asian mortgage mortgage applicants,” says Linna Zhu, one of the study’s authors.

That denial rate — about 8.7 percent for Asian applicants and 6.7 percent for white applicants — might change depending on where an applicant lives or what their income is, but what remains true across the board is this disparate approval for Asian would-be homeowners compared with white applicants. In other words, for Asian applicants, it doesn’t really matter that their average income was $25,000 higher than white applicants or that they reported higher credit scores. 

This pattern can have long term impacts on quality of life and resilience, Zhu says. “If you have the opportunity to become a homeowner and, for example, pay the mortgage in a 30-year horizon, then by [retirement] … if you experience unexpected out-of-pocket medical expenditure or even want to downsize, [homeownership] will help you cash-out the money for you to buffer the risk,” she says. 

Homeownership has long been linked with better life outcomes, including chronic disease prevention, higher education, access to healthier food, and even higher levels of self esteem and psychological health. One Boston University School of Medicine professor likened homeownership to a vaccine.  

As the population of Asian people continues to grow in the United States, more potential homeowners will be prevented from accessing homeownership if nothing is done about the mortgage and loan denial rate. Adding to the problem is the fact that Asian homeownership rates are actually decreasing, likely due to job insecurity brought on by the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amy Kong, president of the Asian American Real Estate Association of America, or AREAA, says that part of the issue is cultural. When Kong was growing up, her parents told her, “don’t use the money you don’t have.” Others who are similarly cautioned against credit score builders like credit cards might have a difficult time demonstrating to a lender that they’re able to take on the financial risk of a mortgage.

The Urban Institute’s report cements a critical first step in developing solutions and policy proposals, says Zhu. She adds that the findings of the report are indicative of systemic discrimination, but not conclusive. Research into understanding the barriers that lead to the denial gap is critical to addressing the problem with specific policy solutions. 

As far as solutions go, Kong says that applicants need to speak up if they feel they’re experiencing discrimination from a lender. Previous generations were quiet, Kong says. “We never wanted to cause any trouble… So even though if people [were] discriminating [against] us or treating us differently, we just found a way to get things done without saying anything,” she says. “But to me, nowadays, we should really speak up and let people know that this is not something that I want and I’m not accepting it.”

This Is How the Language in Real Estate Listings Is Becoming More Inclusive

This Is How the Language in Real Estate Listings Is Becoming More Inclusive

In the summer of 2020, during widespread Black Lives Matter protests, the Houston Board of Realtors made headlines for its decision to stop using the term “master” in property listings to describe a main bedroom or bathroom. “Primary” would be the new adjective of choice. The reason? The word “master” can refer to a male head of a household, underscoring racist and sexist connotations. 

While the origins of the term are murky — per the New York Times, the first recorded use of the term “master bedroom” was in a 1926 edition of a Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog — real estate agents across the country are working toward creating a more diverse and inclusive industry overall. Continuing to use a term that nods to slavery inhibits that.

“It’s not what we think we’re communicating that matters, or what we intend to communicate,” says Herb Lisjak, Principal Broker at Century 21 New Millennium in Gainesville, Virginia, and licensed in Maryland, Virginia, and DC. “It’s how it’s received on the other side of the conversation.”

Clifford Weeks, an associate broker at Century 21 New Millennium agrees. “I don’t think Realtors were purposefully using [exclusionary] language. It was just something we became very comfortable with, and it was time to reevaluate how we were speaking,” he says.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against protected classes in the renting and selling of property. While each state has its own protected classes, there are seven at the federal level: race, color, religion, national origin, familial status, handicap, and sex, which includes gender identity and sexual orientation.

“Words and phrases that can be construed or perceived to limit a [purchase or sale] based on protected class should be avoided when advertising a property,” says Karen Kostiw, an agent for Warburg Realty in New York. 

For example, Kostiw recommends saying “in close proximity to” rather than “walk to” when describing local attractions in a listing because it excludes those with limited physical mobility. 

Here are some other traditional phrases that you might see less of in listings:

A property description might just be words, but the wrong words can be hurtful at best and exclusionary at worst. While the United States has a long way to go in reversing discrimination in housing, getting the language right is a step — albeit a small one — in the right direction. 

Barbara Bellesi Zito

Contributor

Barbara Bellesi Zito is a freelance lifestyle writer from Staten Island, NY, covering all things real estate and home improvement. When she’s not watching house flipping shows or dreaming out about buying a vacation home, she writes fiction. Barbara’s debut novel is due out in early 2022.