Builders Work With NAACP to Close Homeownership Gap
The nation’s largest civil rights organization can work with the largest home building trade association to help more American families achieve the dream of homeownership, according to the leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
NAACP President and CEO Bruce Gordon. Photo by Herman Farrer
“When I look at the mission and vision of our two organizations, I see a lot of synergy, I see lots of overlap,” said Bruce S. Gordon, NAACP’s president and CEO. “We have complementary purposes — we are both in the quality of life business.”
Gordon was a featured speaker during NAHB’s recent board of directors meeting in Washington, D.C.
NAHB President David Pressly noted that the two organizations are “working together to promote homeownership and education and to promote diversity in the home building industry.”
The areas of collaboration include a joint white paper that will assess the state of minority housing opportunity and offer policy recommendations for increasing housing opportunity for all families. NAHB and the NAACP are also involved in joint Fair Housing Act litigation against the city of Kyle, Texas, where restrictive development regulations have had a disproportionate impact on minority home buyers.
Referring to the opening lines of Charles Dickens’ novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” Gordon noted that these are “the best of times” for the growing number of African American families who have purchased homes. But “these are the worst of times” for the many families that cannot overcome the growing gap between incomes and house prices.
“Statistics indicate that the homeownership rate among African Americans is higher today than it ever has been,” Gordon said. “But when you look behind the statistics, all is not well when it comes to homeownership.”
There is a 27-point gap in homeownership rates between blacks and whites, Gordon said.
“Recent statistics from HUD show that sub-prime lenders made 53% of their refinance loans in neighborhoods where African Americans make up more than 80% of the population,” he said. “In neighborhoods where African Americans tend to reside, homeownership comes at a higher cost.”
And in 2003, one in five black families paid more than one-half of their incomes on housing. That’s twice the proportion of white families, he said.
“There are opportunities for us to work to deal with 21st century discrimination so we can both advance our respective visions of having equal access to housing for all people, regardless of ethnicity,” he said.
Gordon, who had a 35-year career in the telecommunications industry and was president of the Retail Markets Group for Verizon Communications when he retired to lead the NAACP, said that in the business world he found that if he wanted to grow the top line, he needed to find new markets and find new customers.
“You can look at the homeownership gap as a problem, or as an opportunity,” Gordon said. “How do we use the interests and expertise of the NAACP to work with NAHB to find ways to develop new markets, new growth, new customers? That’s the kind of work we need to do.”
“What do you do?” he asked NAHB’s directors.
“Obviously, you build homes. But I think you do much more than that. You build lives. You build families. You build futures. You build hopes. You build the capacity for kids to be in school systems where they can get a good education. You build the capacity for folks to come into the workforce and to live near their jobs, and to earn a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.
“You are so much more than home builders,” Gordon said. “You are quality of life builders. You build the lives of Americans from coast to coast.
“And if the nation’s oldest largest civil rights organization can achieve equality of rights, and do it alongside the NAHB, who have a like mission and vision, then from my optimistic, 1960s idealist perspective, I believe the world we leave will be a far more special place than the world we found,” he said.
“At the end of the day, if we can say that, we’ve done our jobs.”
For more information, e-mail Blake Smith at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8583.