Reflections on Meeting with Senator Bernie Sanders and Secretary Hillary Clinton, and the…
DeRay Mckesson

Thank you for this article and what you do. I would add one comment based on my observations in South Florida. I think a big barrier to black people rising is the barrier to home ownership caused in large part by the disparity between starter wages and the cost of living. Unless you have generational wealth, which most black people don’t have, you can’t get a foothold on the property ladder, the most successful and traditional means to wealth creation. Catch-22 and an institutionalized system that ensures poor black people are forever consumers of rental property managed by wealthy property investors, creating even more wealth for the wealthy.

What is a federal solution?

If we analyze why housing costs are so high relative to wages, there are several reasons: 1) Housing has become an asset class. Investors are allowed to buy dozens or hundreds of houses, become absent landlords, raise rents, and destroy the character of the community. 2) Housing has become a luxury store of value, with wealthy middle class buying second homes for vacation, creating shortages and driving up housing purchase and rental prices. 3) Zoning and local regulation is designed to create “tony” neighborhoods but don’t allow for modest, small starter homes with low cost rents and purchase prices. 4) Federal policy of section 8 housing attracts the investors who drive up rental prices and creates a system of rationing.

Where could the Federal government make a difference? Through changes to the tax code and financial regulation, discourage residential real estate as an attractive asset for investors and hedge funds, encourage single home ownership but discourage second vacation homes, allow, encourage and fund ADU (Accessory Dwelling Units) so that black home owners could create additional housing and income streams to support their mortgage payments while maintaining the strength of local ownership. There could be special rates, credit parameters or funding access for black homeowners in particular, fair because of the many years of being denied access to this most successful vehicle for wealth creation, and it should be designed in such a way to allow home ownership to a wide population, not a token gesture where only a small percentage can qualify. These changes would create low cost rental properties owned by local homeowners that care about the community.

This has been tried with a modest success in the past, but perhaps without the support needed to ensure ownership sticks. Rather than focusing only on financial education, a key element of success would be having it accompanied by lots of free or low-cost education in home ownership and home improvement education; carpentry, electricity, plumbing, home decorating, backyard vegetable gardens, fruit trees, etc. These free federal resources of cooperative extension and 4-H are already in place throughout the US, used to create great communities and lift millions of people into middle class, just currently limited in access to black individuals living in mostly urban areas.

Just my thought.