U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez Credit: Official Senate Portrait (Public Domain photo)

During a Senate Banking Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) pushed for greater equity in the housing market, noting the significant racial homeownership gap that exists in the United States. According to census bureau data, the White homeownership rate is 74.4%, compared to 43.1% for Blacks and 48.4% for Hispanics.

“There is a massive racial homeownership gap in this country, which is a serious problem because owning a home is a key way to build intergenerational wealth and reduce racial wealth inequality overall,” said Sen. Menendez, a senior member of the committee. “I’m concerned that institutional investors in real estate are potentially squeezing minority first time homebuyers out of the market. According to the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, one of the critical barriers Latino homebuyers face is that Latinos are overwhelmingly concentrated in areas of the country with acute housing shortages.”

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The Federal Reserve’s 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances shows that the median homeowner has 40 times the wealth of the median renter. This fact, combined with the over 30-point gap between Black and White homeownership rates, and the 25-point gap for Hispanic and White families, is a significant driver of the wealth gap between households of color and White households.

Sen. Menendez has long been a champion of ensuring greater access to housing and homeownership, especially for people of color. He has consistently fought to fully fund the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Housing Counseling Program. The program supports a nationwide network of housing agencies which provides tools to current homeowners, prospective home buyers, renters, homeless individuals, and victims of disaster so they can make well-informed choices to address their housing needs. In the American Rescue Plan, Sen. Menendez secured $100 million to expand access to housing counseling to ensure those who facing economic hardships due to the pandemic can stay in their homes

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