Pew: Where black homeownership is the norm

Pew, August 15, 2018: Where black homeownership is the norm

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. — Two decades ago, Frederick Veazey was drawn to this suburban idyll by the usual things: grass, peace and quiet, good schools. But in choosing where to raise his sons and daughter, the successful insurance broker also wanted something else.

“We wanted our kids to grow up in a place where there are African-American role models other than their parents,” Veazey said. “We wanted to experience the diversity. We didn’t want to be the diversity.”

Veazey found what he was looking for in this majority-black village of grand houses, gated mansions and a world-class golf course: Olympia Fields has a black homeownership rate of 98 percent. It is one of only a handful of sizeable, majority-black communities in the United States where the black homeownership rate exceeds 80 percent.

Nationally, the black homeownership rate is only 41 percent — virtually unchanged from 50 years ago, when the federal Fair Housing Act banned racial discrimination in housing. The national white homeownership rate is 71 percent. Incredibly, the gap between black and white homeownership rates is wider now than it was in 1900, according to a study released in April by Zillow, an online real estate company.

Four other black-majority municipalities with homeownership rates of at least 80 percent — Flossmoor, Lynwood, Matteson and South Holland — also are suburban communities south of Chicago, within a few miles of Olympia Fields. That is no accident: In the 1990s, a group called Diversity, Inc. helped to boost black homeownership in the area by sending black and white buyers to home sellers to ferret out discrimination, and filing lawsuits when they were treated differently.

“Areas with high levels of African-American homeownership generally have very active fair housing and social justice activity. You will find a history of active organizing and engaging,” said Lisa Rice, president of the National Fair Housing Alliance.

In some other suburban outliers, however, the black homeownership rate of 80 percent or more is less about activism than about the migration of middle-class families — both black and white — out of nearby cities.

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