New York Times Letter to the Editor: Race & Economic Inequality

The housing crisis can only be fully understood and addressed when the role of racial inequality is acknowledged.

June 10, 2015

Cross-posted on The New York Times

In “Where the Housing Crisis Continues” (Op-Ed, June 3), Elyse Cherry hit the mark — almost.

Citing the Supreme Court case Bank of America v. Caulkett, she explained that the housing crisis has not ended for low-income communities. But she did not mention a crucial fact: The crisis disparately affects minority Americans as a whole, regardless of income.

Prince Georges County, Md., next door to Washington, is one of the wealthiest majority-minority counties in the country. The region’s housing market is much improved, yet Prince Georges still struggles with more underwater homes and foreclosures than the surrounding area.

A May 31 editorial, “Racial Penalties in Baltimore Mortgages,” helps explain why, noting that “black borrowers in Baltimore, especially those who lived in black neighborhoods, were charged higher rates and were disadvantaged at every point in the borrowing process compared with similarly situated whites” and that “the racial penalty was highest for black borrowers earning over $50,000.”

All things being equal, black borrowers paid a penalty simply for being black and living in black neighborhoods.

Economic inequality in this country exists even for minorities who are by no means poor.

The housing crisis cannot be fully understood if we don’t acknowledge the role race played.