The racial gap in homeownership in the U.S. is wider now than it was back when it was legal to refuse to sell a house to a family because they were Black. The difference is that in the ’60s, it was people who were turning minority families away; now it’s systems.

“Our credit-scoring systems, our risk-based pricing systems, our automated underwriting systems, and many of the systems that we use in the housing and financial-services space are inequitable,” says Lisa Rice, 61, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA). “The inequality is automated. So you have to be disruptive.”

The legal changes since the ’60s would make a difference, says Rice, if the anti-discrimination laws were enforced. But enforcement agencies are underfunded, so the NFHA, a consortium of housing and civil rights advocacy groups, aims to close the gap through education, advocacy, and when necessary, litigation. The NFHA is currently pursuing legal action against Bank of America and Deutsche Bank, claiming they violated the Fair Housing Act.

Rice has been at the forefront of reforming discriminatory lending, insurance, rental, and zoning practices, and ensuring that, as lenders turn over the task of approving home loans to A.I. tools, the same racial inequalities are not baked into the new system.

But she adds that the federal government, which has historically encouraged home ownership as a path to financial independence, needs to play its role as well, by ensuring that more homes are available for buying or renting. Some of this will require rezoning, but building more affordable homes is also key. “It’s not just subsidized housing for low-income people,” says Rice. “The bulk of it is supporting affordable home development for just average working people, because in the United States, we’re not building affordable housing. We’re building very high-income and expensive housing.”

But Rice is clear that home ownership is not a problem that can be fixed by money alone. “Data shows that every single year, high-income Black people get denied for mortgages at rates that are on par with or higher than low-income white people,” says Rice. “The market absolutely cannot solve the problem.”

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