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BEING BLACK LOWERS THE VALUE OF MY HOME.: THE LEGACY OF REDLINING. If I picked up my home and moved it 20 miles west to a White neighborhood, it would be worth much more

By Michelle Singletary OCTOBER 23, 2020

Dear Reader,

Let me tell you about where I live.

On my early-morning walks with my Yorkie mix Simba, we often encounter small families of deer, which see so many human walkers and runners in my neighborhood that they glance up but don’t dash away. If I’m not in a rush, I’ll stop to watch geese swim in the two ponds we pass.

My two-story, two-car-garage Colonial home, tucked into a cul-de-sac, sits on close to an acre of land and backs onto a wooded area. My deck wraps around the back of the house with a screened-in gazebo. There’s an unspoken rivalry between the neighbors over who can keep their grass so plush and green it looks like carpet. At night, the sound of the frogs and owls can lull you to sleep.

My “hood” is idyllic, except for one thing.

The value of my home in Prince George’s County, Md., would be significantly higher if my husband and I weren’t Black — and if all our neighbors weren’t Black..

Pick up and move our Black neighborhood of doctors, teachers, police officers and small-business owners just 20 miles west to a White subdivision with a similar economic makeup, and our homes would easily be worth 40 percent more. This is true for other Black communities across the country, where homes can be undervalued by as much as 65 percent.

This is the legacy of systemic racism that our government created and, in many ways, still isn’t doing enough to eradicate.

The key to the net worth of most Americans isn’t a stock portfolio but the equity accumulated in their homes. It’s this equity that has created generational wealth for many White Americans. This wealth can fund college educations or finance small businesses. But homeownership, which is so central to the American Dream, has been and far too often remains an unequal and financially frustrating experience for Black families.

The 2019 Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances shows that 45 percent of Black families own their homes, with a median home value of $150,000. That compares with a 73.7 percent homeownership rate for White families, with a median home value of $230,000.

Those gaps — homeownership compounded by home value — are a major reason the typical White family has almost eight times the wealth of a typical Black family. And these gaps are directly linked to “redlining,” which has robbed Black families of generational wealth.

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