Black History Month on WCCO: Sharp Black homeownership disparities plague Minnesota

Legacy of racist practices of the 20th Century continue in present day
Black History Month
Photo credit Getty Images

WCCO is celebrating Black History Month throughout February by highlighting Black Minnesota leaders or exploring systemic issues still needing addressal today. Sloane Martin explores the Twin Cities disparity of Black homeownership through the lens of a Black real estate agent:

According to Minnesota Compass, Minnesota has one of the worst disparities of Black and white homeownership in the nation with a 24 to 77% homeownership gap. Minneapolis is cited as one of the worst among metro areas with at least 1 million people.

Racist practices including redlining and racial covenants in deeds in the first half of the 20th Century followed by predatory lending targeting Black families are foundational to the ignominious data. It’s prevented generations of Black families from building wealth to pass down.

“If we can have a piece of the pie and we’re homeowners, it’s going to give us more of a positive impact within our communities, it's going to give us a positive impact within our family structure, it’s going to give us that positive impact through generations after us,” Trent Bowman, local chapter president for the National Association for Real Estate Brokers, said.

Bowman said biases persist to this day from realtors to banks to neighbors.

“We have to start looking in the mirror and asking ourselves, am I a part of the same hypocrisy that was going on in the 20th Century and the history, or am I, as a person that is not of-color willing to make that change? I’m not afraid if a person of color comes and lives in my neighborhood. And as a real estate agent, I shouldn’t steer or I shouldn’t tell somebody that is selling their property, ‘Don’t sell to this particular individual or this particular race of people because it’s going to bring your property values down,’” Bowman said.

The path to homeownership starts with good credit and employment stability, but Bowman says Black people shouldn’t be deterred thinking they need a 20% down payment.

“You can buy a house with as little as 3% down, and sometimes, based on the programs that are available out there, the down payment assistance programs that are out there, you can possibly get into a home with as little as $1,000,” Bowman said.

Bowman said nonprofits such as Project for Pride in Living, PRG, and Urban League Twin Cities are valuable resources for first-time homebuyers, but research is needed.

“FHA is probably the No. 1 product that most people in the BIPOC community get pre-approved for,” Bowman said. “I’m not saying FHA is a bad product because it’s a great product, but it ain’t the only product. Give yourself options. And the only way you give yourself options is by having the higher credit scores, job stability and assets. Even though you may not have to use all of those assets, it still gives you strength when it comes to that pre-qualification.”

The Mapping Prejudice project at the University of Minnesota examines where racial covenants were instituted in the Twin Cities in the 20th Century. The maps too often match up to current housing segregation today.

Through data, archives and property records, they weave stories of neighbors banning together to force out Black homeowners in Linden Hills to the history of Edmund Boulevard along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, named after the man who introduced racial covenants to the Twin Cities.

“If we don’t understand our history, how can we do better in the present so we can leave our kids something stronger in the future?” Bowman asked. If this doesn’t change, this whole systemic thing is going to continue to keep happening if we don’t start changing as a people and we don’t start changing as individuals.”