This paper has frequently written about city leaders who ignore the plight of Portland's African American citizens. Now it has happened again.
Last year Mayor Tom Potter, along with Commissioner Eric Sten, launched the Home Ownership for Minority Equity Steering Committee — in part because the city had overlooked the role race plays in Portland's housing market.
What is the color line in Portland's housing market? Between Whites and Blacks with similar incomes, the loan denial rate is nearly two times higher for Black loan applicants. At every income level, African American and Latino households are turned down for home loans more often than Whites. Even low-income Whites are more likely than middle class African Americans to get approved for a mortgage. Portland has a dual homeowner market – one White, one Black and unequal.
The City's own report on minority homeownership notes that African Americans who do receive loans are, compared to White mortgage holders, subjected to higher prices and inferior sub-prime loans. Sub-prime loans have become the best indication of Portland's racially segregated loan market given the dominance of this product in geographical areas where African Americans reside.
I applaud the mayor and the housing commissioner for finally launching the HOME steering committee to address the inequities, but I have not seen the co-chairs advocate funding the city's promise to put 13,000 minorities in homes by 2015.
IF YOU GO
What: Mayor Tom Potter and Commissioner Erik Sten will introduce an ordinance to allow funds to be used for homeownership for households with incomes up to 100 percent of the Median Family Income under certain conditions and adopt income guidelines for the city's Affordable Housing Tax Increment Financing Set Aside Policy
When: 3 p.m. Thursday, April 5
Where: Portland City Hall, 1221 S.W. Fourth Ave.
The poor state of affairs for minority homeowners in Portland was illustrated by a 2006 NAACP and National Home Builders' study, "Building on a Dream." The first joint report by the NAACP and NAHB, "Building on a Dream" provides a comprehensive view on the state of minority housing opportunities; identifies the barriers to decent, affordable homes in neighborhoods of diversity; and describes the many economic and social benefits of increasing minority homeownership. The report presents a Housing Opportunity Index that describes each state's share of affordable homes for families earning the median income for both minority and non-Hispanic White households. In Oregon, for example, 35.1 percent of homes are affordable for families earning the median income of non-Hispanic Whites, but only16.1 percent are affordable for families earning the median income of minorities.
The 2006 Oregon Benchmarks report on the progress of Oregon's racially and ethnically diverse populations reports that Hispanic and Black home ownership rates declined 2 percent from 1990 to 2004. During the same period, home ownership rates for Asian and Pacific Islanders increased from 48 percent to almost 64 percent.
African American leaders have asked the Portland Development Commission to keep its promise to fund minority homeownership by putting 50 percent of the projected five-year, $163 million dedicated housing funds into minority home ownership. It must be acceptable for Whites to have twice the ownership affordability as African Americans because last week PDC rejected a proposal to increase funding for minority home ownership. In the 3 to 2 vote PDC's commissioners discussed many reasons for ignoring the needs of its growing minority citizens. The one reason not given was the PDC's complete capitulation to the housing commissioner and White housing advocates who don't see segregated housing finance and the city's promise to close the racial gap in home ownership for 13,000 minorities as their issue. Next week the city council can correct this inequality and take a stand to keep the city's promise of closing the racial gap in home ownership.
What message is the city sending to us when they ignore this problem? We hope Commissioner Sten will add resources to this serious problem, which has long plagued the community, by dedicating money from the Tax Increment Financing funds – the primary funding source for all PDC projects. What do you think?