(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser, the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED), and the Black Homeownership Strike Force (BHSF) announced a new goal to make 20,000 additional Black DC residents homeowners by 2030. The Strike Force also published a report that includes 10 recommendations to support the new goal.
“This goal is a first step in undoing the lasting legacy of discriminatory housing laws that locked many Black families out of homeownership throughout the twentieth century,” said Mayor Bowser. “This is about helping 20,000 Washingtonians buy homes, but it is also about helping 20,000 Washingtonians build generational wealth, stay in DC for generations to come, and benefit from the prosperity of Washington, DC.”
In June, Mayor Bowser launched the Black Homeownership Strike Force made up of government and public experts in housing and financial counseling, lending/underwriting, real estate development and services, as well as representatives and advocates from the faith-based, senior, immigrant, and LGBTQ+ communities who focus on addressing social and racial inequities.
Mayor Bowser charged the Strike Force with providing recommendations for uses of a $10 million Black Homeownership Fund in the FY23 Fair Shot budget, creating a goal for increasing the number of Black homeowners in DC by 2030, and supporting wealth-building through homeownership through, for example, programs that enable homeowners to maintain their homes, increase their property value, and maintain the affordability of their home in an increasingly expensive market. The 20,000 Black homeownership goal was informed by the work of the National Black Homeownership Collaborative, which identified seven steps to increase Black homeownership by three million net new homeowners nationally by 2030, an increase of more than 10 percentage points in the Black homeownership rate nationally.
“Mayor Bowser is serious about creating homeownership opportunities for long-time Black residents of the District of Columbia,” said Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio. “We know the federal government crafted policies to prevent African Americans from becoming homeowners for centuries. These policies had ripple effects over generations and are the root cause of the racial disparities we see in homeownership today. Our goal is the first step in acknowledging the implications of our past and the lasting impact it has on our Black community. By closing the racial gap in homeownership, we are investing in the preservation of the culture and identity of the Black community in Washington DC.”
Throughout the summer, DMPED coordinated the work of the Strike Force and prepared members with relevant data and research. The Strike Force was staffed by DMPED and supported by researchers and analysts at Urban Institute and Howard University, with facilitation and engagement support provided by Justice & Sustainability Associates. In addition, the BHSF engaged residents who have used District homeownership programs to purchase their first home but also those who have sought to buy a home and have yet to achieve this goal. During the process, the Strike Force provided a platform for residents to share their stories, experiences, ideas, and feedback regarding District programs and other related challenges to achieving homeownership in the District. The result of their work concluded with the following recommendations:
Recommendation 1 – To assist in the inter-generational transmission of homeownership for Black homeowners, the Black Homeownership Strike Force (BHSF) recommends that the District provide estate planning resources and legal services to assist with the transfer of ownership to homeowners and heirs. Additional financial incentives should be considered to support the transfers such as tax savings, reduced transfer fees, or a bridge loan to Black homeowners to support interfamily (or to owner-occupant homebuyers) transfers/sales of property.
Recommendation 2 – To protect homeowners from harassment, the District should pass legislation to protect homeowners from unwanted solicitation regarding the sale or potential purchase of their homes, including requirements for homeowners to opt-in for such solicitation. The District should clarify that investor and wholesale purchasers are subject to the District’s consumer protection laws, require registration of investors and wholesale purchasers to do business in the District, and impose penalties for non-compliance.
Recommendation 3 – To support Black homeowners who are severely burdened by housing costs to remain in their homes, the BHSF recommends the District should create a program to aid Black homeowners who have experienced and are at risk of foreclosure due to their inability to pay their mortgage and related housing fees. This program should build on the same requirements and guidelines currently established by the Department of Housing and Community Development for the Homeowner Assistance Fund and add technical assistance and training as well as financial incentives for good management for condominium associations and homeowners associations with low-income residents.
Recommendation 4 – To provide resources to Black families struggling to make home repairs, the BHSF recommends the District should convene all relevant DC Government agencies including the Department of Housing and Community Development, the Department of Energy and Environment, and the Department of Aging and Community Living as well as nonprofits that provide home improvement/accessibility work to coordinate program offerings and ensure major repairs are completed for all homeowners including co-ops and condos, while also providing financial support and technical assistance to Black homeowners in rehabilitating their homes.
Recommendation 5 – To discourage conversion of older housing stock into housing that is unaffordable for Black homebuyers and to ensure quality housing rehabilitation, the District should incentivize new construction and renovation of single family residential by or for sale to owner occupants, create legislation that reduces impact of housing speculators in the District, and establish a requirement that investors disclose to homebuyers the scope of work, the permits used, and the cost of the renovations, with penalties imposed for sellers who fail to disclose as part of the sale.
Recommendation 6 – To increase the supply of homes for ownership that are affordable to Black homebuyers, as the District redevelops District-owned/acquired properties, the District should provide homeownership units to Black owner occupant homebuyers with a mixed income requirement, with an average income restriction of 80% MFI. Priority may be given to projects that include units at or below 60% MFI.
Recommendation 7 – To support quicker delivery of affordable homeownership units, the District should identify ways to accelerate zoning and permitting for homeownership projects, especially for projects with units affordable at 80% MFI and below, without compromising the quality of the work.
Recommendation 8 – To increase the supply of homes for ownership that are affordable to Black homebuyers, the District should leverage the $10 million Black Homeownership Fund to create a public-private fund (i.e., Homeownership Production Trust Fund) where a third of the units are affordable, a third of the units are for middle income earners, and a third of the units are market rate and sold to Black owner-occupant homebuyers. In addition, the fund would seek to achieve the following:
- Fund homeownership projects that meet a mixed income requirement with an average income restriction of 80% MFI. Priority may be given to projects that include units at or below 60% MFI.
- Partner with mission-driven investors including Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), or for-profit and nonprofit homebuilders, to acquire homes at their fair market value and rehabilitate or create new homeownership units.
- Invest in homeownership projects with a return of the initial investment at lower rates in exchange for affordability at targeted income levels for Black owner-occupants.
Recommendation 9 – To broaden awareness of programs that support homeownership, the District should create an online comprehensive District homeownership platform for District residents to achieve the following:
- Highlight financial and housing counseling prior to starting homeownership journey to help potential homeowners prepare financially (i.e. credit repair, addressing student loans, increasing savings, etc.);
- Provide rehabilitation counseling for owner-occupant homebuyers to rehabilitate formerly vacant properties, or homes in need of repair, into a stable home by preparing a scope of work, helping families determine which projects they can complete themselves, and assisting families in picking a certified contractor, and in supervising their work with contractors.
- Leverage Front Door programs especially post purchase to help homeowners maintain and stay in their homes; and
- List private and public down payment assistance programs and grants.
- Ensure education and outreach and community engagement is developed to socialize the platform and user interface. Afterwards, the District should work with credible community messengers to promote the platform to Black households.
Recommendation 10 – To increase the ability of Black homebuyers using District programs to compete for homes in the current real estate market, the District should increase the effectiveness of all homeownership programs (i.e. Home Purchase Assistance Program, Employer Assisted Housing Program, DC Open Doors, etc.) to effectively participate with the market through the following strategies:
- Establish a certified lender (and realtor) pool for HPAP with a preference towards loans that have zero down and zero closing costs;
- Increase HPAP funding to help support the goal of Black homeownership in the District;
- Increase the amount of down payment assistance available to homeowners and/or where possible to buydown the interest rate;
- Automate the HPAP application process;
- Provide residents with a pre-certification ensuring their ability to proceed with bidding on homes;
- Leverage other private and public down payment assistance and grants, including Special Purpose Credit Programs;
- Streamline underwriting guidelines with federal financing;
- Allow rental payments to be considered for establishing credit;
- Increase income limit to 120 percent MFI;
- Allow for the purchase of 1-4 units for the purpose of helping owners afford the home and generate wealth;
- Encourage incentives for HPAP recipients interested in selling to sell to an HPAP applicant (i.e. provide a first-look, reduce fees, etc.);
- Enhance the customer experience; and
- Develop a comprehensive homeownership training program for buyers, sellers, appraisers, contractors, lenders, realtors, title and settlement companies.
In the District, homeownership is becoming increasingly expensive. Today, 34% of Black residents own their homes versus nearly 49% of white residents. An Urban Institute analysis updated in June 2022 for DMPED shows that home ownership is increasingly out of reach for Black first-time homebuyers. A first-time homebuyer with the average white household income could afford 71% of the homes sold in DC between 2016 and 2020, including all homes sold in Wards 7 and 8. In comparison, a first-time homebuyer from the average Black household income could afford 8.4% of the homes sold. This disparity worsened from several years prior (2010-2014), when a first-time homebuyer with the average white household income could afford 67% of homes sold, including all homes sold in Wards 7 and 8, and the average Black buyer could afford 9.3%.
To address these disparities, Mayor Bowser announced changes to the Home Purchasing Assistance Program (HPAP), that since 2015, has helped almost 2,000 District residents, many of whom that identify as Black, purchase their first home. This week, with the start of the new fiscal year on October 1, the maximum down payment assistance that residents can receive increased from $80,000 to $202,000. Residents who qualify are encouraged to take advantage of these changes immediately. In addition to HPAP, the Mayor’s FY23 budget includes new investments in providing Heirs Property Legal Services to assist 1,000 individuals from multi-generational families in maintaining their family property after the original homeowner passes; reducing the annual increase cap on property taxes for seniors from 5% to 2%; increasing funding for the Single-Family Residential Rehab program, which helps low-income homeowners repair their homes; and investing more than $12 million in home weatherization, lead and mold remediation, and FloodSmart homes programs to help residents make their homes safer, healthier, greener, and more affordable.
For more information and to read the full report, please visit BlackHome.dc.gov.