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NAREB Takes Fight for Black Homeownership to Congressional Hearing

WASHINGTON INFORMER — The rate of Black homeownership in America – now at 41.1 percent, according to 2019 census numbers – is even lower than it was when the Fair Housing Act was signed into law 51 years ago on April 11, 1968.

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By Hazel Trice Edney

The rate of Black homeownership in America – now at 41.1 percent, according to 2019 census numbers – is even lower than it was when the Fair Housing Act was signed into law 51 years ago on April 11, 1968.

This means Black homeownership is 32.1 percentage points lower than that of Whites, which stands at 73.2 percent. It also means Black homeownership is 6.3 percentage points lower than that of Latino-Americans, which stands at 47.4 percent.

These are just a few of the facts presented to a recent Congressional hearing by homeownership advocates. The hearing, held by the House Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance, was the first modern day hearing of its kind — intended to discover the barriers to homeownership for people of color.

“Federal housing regulators and agencies have aggressively pursued lending practices and policies that make access to homeownership more challenging for Black Americans. It is against this backdrop that I give my testimony,” Jeff Hicks, president/CEO of the National Association of Black Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), testified to lawmakers at the hearing. “Our nation has a very complicated and checkered history with providing equal and equitable access to homeownership to Black Americans. At the end of World War II, when Black Americans sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom, dignity and human rights, the United States federal government created an economic divide between Blacks and Whites.”

Hicks described how Black veterans and their families were “denied the multigenerational, enriching impact of home ownership and economic security that the G.I. Bill conferred on a majority of White veterans, their children, and their grandchildren.”

He concluded that the “unequal implementation of the G.I. Bill, along with federal government policies and practices at the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), including the redlining of Black neighborhoods, were leveled against Black veterans” while at the same time the government financed the construction of suburbs and provided subsidized mortgage financing for Whites-only. This scenario “set the stage for today’s wealth and homeownership gap statistics,” Hicks said.

The hearing, led by Housing Subcommittee Chair Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), marked the anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), signed into law one week after the April 4 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

President Lyndon B. Johnson described the road to the 1968 passage as a “long and stormy trip” after it failed three times. Together, the testimony of the 72-year-old NAREB — the oldest organization represented — and the string of witnesses at the 21st century congressional hearing, revealed that the storm is not nearly over.

“We have not simply failed to make progress; we are losing ground. And we cannot continue to go backward,” Alanna McCargo, vice president for Housing Finance Policy, Urban Institute, stressed the urgency of the moment.

The Urban Institute was founded by President Johnson in 1968 to focus on “the problems of America’s cities and their people and to inform social and economic policy interventions that would help fight the War on Poverty,” she described.

The witnesses gave facts and anecdotes describing why new legislation and homeownership policies are needed. Among the proposals:

The passage of The American Dream Down Payment Savings Plan, a proposal with bipartisan support, which would allow prospective homebuyers to save money in an authorized account, where the savings could grow and be removed for the specified purpose of a tax-free down payment for purchasing a home.

A fairer mortgage and underwriting process in which borrowers meet a minimum threshold for approval and all interest rates and costs are the same for everyone; regardless of race; including loan level equality, approval rates, pricing and terms for borrowers — without adjustments for neighborhoods, zip codes or census tracts.

Accountability for non-bank financial institutions such as the examination their lending practices to ensure fair, equitable, and non-discriminatory origination, pricing, and terms. This would also include greater accountability and modernization of the Community Reinvestment Act to eliminate loopholes that limit access to mortgage credit to existing and potential Black homeowners.

Overall promotion of homeownership as a High Priority for Public Policymakers.

Equal and equitable access to mainstream mortgage credit as prospective Black homeowners have been trapped in predatory mortgage schemes or by an absolute denial of access to home loans.

Historically unequal access to credit for people of color was repeated as a key problem during the hearing.

“Wide access to credit is critical for building family wealth, closing the racial wealth gap, and for the housing market overall, which in turn, contributes significantly to our overall economy,” Nikitra Bailey, executive vice president of the Center for Responsible Lending, told the Committee. “Today’s hearing is a good step toward acknowledging this history and presents the potential to create opportunities to address it.”

The other four witnesses were Joseph Nery, president, National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals; Carmen Castro, managing housing counselor, Housing Initiative Partnership; Joanne Poole, liaison for the National Association of Realtors and Joel Griffith, research fellow, Financial Regulations, The Heritage Foundation.

Bi-partisan lawmakers on the subcommittee listened intently then fired questions and remarks.

When Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) asked the witnesses to raise their hands if they “believe that invidious discrimination has been a significant reason for the inability for African-Americans to achieve wealth in this country … to this very day,” all seven witnesses extended their hands into the air.

“I’m grateful that you’ve done this because we’ve been trying to build a record to let the world know that we still have discrimination,” Green said. “Our original sin was discrimination. To be more specific racism … institutionalized racism.”

Chairman Clay saw eye to eye with the witnesses.

“It is clear by the evidence in front of us that 51 years later, there is still much work to be done to promote and assure fair housing in America,” he said, adding that Congress must bear the responsibility to end the discrimination largely because of its failure to continue to make and maintain fair housing policies.

“Although many private actors were complicit, research has shown that the government played a significant role,” Clay said.

Rep. Maxine Waters, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees the Housing Subcommittee, pressed the lawmakers, saying many of the oppressive policies are still used by banks and are “taken for granted.”

Waters described interest rates that are so high that homeowners – paying both interest and principal – have faced foreclosure because they can no longer afford the loan. She also described banks that won’t do loan modifications until two payments are missed making it difficult to catch up on the payments.

“We need to scrub this market and all the rules and practices and come up with a laundry list of what we think needs to be taken out of the way,” Waters said.

The congressional hearing was held on launch day for NAREB’s 2019 Spring Policy Conference May 8. NAREB, founded to fight for civil rights in order to win economic justice for its members and the people they serve, has set a goal of at least two million new Black homeowners within five years. They view working with Congress as their next best hope.

“Together with Congress, we must overcome the discrimination that continues to limit Black homeownership,” Hicks said. “The reason for this “dismal reality,” as stated in NAREB’s most recent SHIBA (State of Housing in Black America) report, is “that Blacks have never enjoyed equal and equitable access to mainstream mortgage credit. Rather, Black families attempting to become homeowners have largely been trapped in a vicious cycle of predatory mortgage schemes or by an absolute denial of access to home loans…We need to vigorously renew the importance of homeownership to all families, regardless of their race or ethnicity.”

This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer

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Bay Area

Board Bars Evictions Related to COVID-19

Several times during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Board has passed resolutions barring evictions for nonpayment of rent arising directly from the coronavirus. Preventing evictions for nonpayment due to financial hardship related to COVID-19 allows the County and its partners to continue making funds available for tenants who have struggled to pay rent. Since spring 2020, nearly 1,260 local households have received County-sponsored COVID-19 rental assistance.

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The County budget is balanced and structurally sound, although national economic indicators are showing signs that the recovery is slowing down.
The County budget is balanced and structurally sound, although national economic indicators are showing signs that the recovery is slowing down.

Protections intended for those experiencing hardship because of pandemic

Courtesy of Marin County

Determined to prevent housing displacement for residents financially hampered by the ongoing pandemic, the Marin County Board of Supervisors took another action June 21 to prohibit residential renter evictions in unincorporated Marin effective July 1 through Sept. 30, 2022. The State of California’s eviction protections are scheduled to expire June 30.

Several times during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Board has passed resolutions barring evictions for nonpayment of rent arising directly from the coronavirus. Preventing evictions for nonpayment due to financial hardship related to COVID-19 allows the County and its partners to continue making funds available for tenants who have struggled to pay rent. Since spring 2020, nearly 1,260 local households have received County-sponsored COVID-19 rental assistance.

The County is continuing to assist tenants who have applied for rental assistance and working with community partners to assure an equitable distribution of federal funds earmarked for eviction prevention. All renters have been protected by state or local laws, regardless of a person’s citizenship status, during the public health emergency. The County continues to process rental assistance applications as quickly as possible with added staff over the past year to accommodate assistance applications.

Rental assistance priority has been given to households that are considered extremely low income, which in Marin would be a family of three with an income of no more than $43,550. Nationally, communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and are often at the highest risk of housing displacement. The County recognizes that those most in need of eviction protection experience barriers to access such a program. While more than two-thirds of non-Hispanic white residents are homeowners in Marin, roughly three-quarters of both Black/African American and Hispanic/Latinx communities in Marin are renters.

Between state and federal funds, the County’s pandemic rental assistance program was awarded $36,414,871 of which $23,970,885 has been distributed to 1,260 local households in need. There is a remaining balance of $8,579,705, which will serve the remaining applicants and waiting list and is anticipated to be spent by September 30, 2022.

Clearing accumulated debt is designed to provide a lifeline to the hardest-hit families and provide income stability for landlords. Several local agencies, such as Canal Alliance, Community Action Marin, and North Marin Community Services, are assisting applicants with the process.

Property owners may call the District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit at (415) 473-6450 for assistance on rights and responsibilities. Renters are encouraged to contact Legal Aid of Marin at (415) 492-0230, extension 102, for inquiries on eviction protections.

Anyone needing help with the online application may call (415) 473-2223 or email staff to learn more about the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. More information about the County’s eviction moratorium is on the County’s COVID-19 Renter Protections webpage.

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Bay Area

Marin Prepares to Vaccinate Young Children

Parents and guardians should contact their pediatrician to discuss appropriate timing to have their child vaccinated for COVID-19, especially if due for another routine pediatric vaccination. Children in their first 5 years are regularly visiting their pediatrician and vaccines are a routine part of these visits. The COVID-19 vaccine can be given in the same visit as the other important vaccines needed. MCPH will support pediatricians to ensure access to the vaccine over the coming weeks.

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Parents and guardians in Marin County will be able to make COVID-19 vaccine appointments for kids 6 months to 4 years starting this week. (Copyright-free photo from Unsplash).
Parents and guardians in Marin County will be able to make COVID-19 vaccine appointments for kids 6 months to 4 years starting this week. (Copyright-free photo from Unsplash).

New COVID-19 vaccine reduces risk in childcare and youth settings

Courtesy of Marin County

Now that federal and state regulators have approved the use of COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 6 months through 4 years old, local pediatricians, health centers and Marin County Public Health (MCPH) are preparing to vaccinate the nearly 8,000 children in that age group who call Marin County home. Appointments are opening this week.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s Public Health Officer. “Until now, 8,000 of our residents – everyone under 5 years – has been excluded from the protection of vaccines because they were too young. Vaccinations will make every setting where kids gather safer, for kids and adults. We’ll all be able to worry a lot less about childcare centers, playdates, parties, and summer camps.”

Community transmission rates in Marin and across the Bay Area remain high. Since the beginning of June, Marin children up to 4 years old have the highest rates of COVID-19 of any age group. Nationally, over 500 children aged 5 or younger have died from COVID-19, making the virus among the top 10 causes of death in children.

The two authorized vaccines are Moderna and Pfizer, offered in lower doses than for adults and older children. Moderna will be for children aged 6 months to 5 years, as two shots spaced one month apart. The Pfizer vaccine will be for children 6 months through 4 years, as three shots over 11 weeks, two within three weeks and a third eight weeks later. The three-dose Pfizer regimen was found to be 80% effective at preventing infection, roughly twice as effective as the Moderna vaccine.

One of the settings that will benefit most from pediatric COVID-19 vaccination is childcare. In Marin, over 80% of school-aged children 5-18 are fully vaccinated, after a dedicated countywide campaign to make schools safer through vaccinations.

“Our childcare providers have been heroes, taking care of our kids since the very beginning of the pandemic while knowing none of the children were vaccinated,” said Michelle Fadelli, Manager of Public Policy and Communications at First 5 Marin. “Now very young children will be safer in childcare, and their providers will be, too.”

ACCESSING THE VACCINE

Parents and guardians should contact their pediatrician to discuss appropriate timing to have their child vaccinated for COVID-19, especially if due for another routine pediatric vaccination. Children in their first 5 years are regularly visiting their pediatrician and vaccines are a routine part of these visits. The COVID-19 vaccine can be given in the same visit as the other important vaccines needed. MCPH will support pediatricians to ensure access to the vaccine over the coming weeks.

Kaiser Permanente, which is the primary medical provider for more than half of Marin households, will welcome children 6 months to 5 years old for COVID-19 vaccination starting Friday, June 24. Parents and guardians can book a vaccination appointment via Kaiser’s call center at (415) 444-4460. Walk-ins or drop-ins are not immediately available.

In addition, parents and guardians will be able to find appointments in a variety of settings – including pharmacies, pediatricians, and public health clinics – online via MyTurn.ca.gov. Select MCPH clinics will offer vaccines to infants and young children without a primary care physician beginning Thursday, June 23. Appointments can be made online via MyTurn and the ongoing schedule will be published at GetVaccinatedMarin.org.

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Bay Area

Cautious Parents Weigh Decision to Give Children Under 5 COVID Vaccine

“There is definitely still a need for vaccinations for the whole population,” said Dr. Lucia Abascal, a physician and researcher at CDPH. “There is this idea that Omicron is milder, but if we look at children’s data in this age group, we can actually see that hospitalizations peaked as well as deaths. We have more and more evidence that kids are at an acute risk of COVID.”

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Visit Vaccinate All 58 to learn more about the safe and effective vaccines available for all children in California ages 6 months and older.
Visit Vaccinate All 58 to learn more about the safe and effective vaccines available for all children in California ages 6 months and older.

By Edward Henderson, California Black Media

Antonio and Tenaja Kizzie, a San Diego area couple, are parents of a 3-year-old daughter. Although both parents are vaccinated and boosted, the Kizzies have reservations about giving their toddler the COVID-19 vaccine the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended last week for children younger than 5 years old.

“It’s one thing to feel like her body is still developing and growing. She’s been vaccinated for everything else for things that have been around for years. It’s a little scary thinking about something that’s new. We don’t want to jump in right now,” Tenaja told California Black Media. “We just want to wait a little bit and see the side effects for other kids in her age group and reassess from there.”

Her husband chimed in.

“We believe in the science, we believe vaccines work, but when it comes to the under-fives, just being a parent we’re a bit more hesitant to give her the vaccine so far. We’re waiting to see how it goes with other under 5 kids that get the vaccine. Even though science and logic say yes, as a new parent you’re extra cautious,” Antonio said.

The Kizzies are not alone.

Numbers the CDC released at the end of May indicate that hesitancy about vaccinating their children is high among parents across the country. Although the U.S. Food and Drug administration approved COVID vaccines for children between the ages of 5 and 11 last October, only about 30% of kids in that age range have received the shot.

“For those families that are hesitant and questioning, I try to understand what their fears and questions are. I try to remind them that we are in this together. I care about the health and wellbeing of their children, and I will always suggest the best possible course for them,” said Dr. Jennifer Miller, a pediatrician with East Bay Pediatrics, a medical practice with offices in Berkeley and Orinda.

Miller was speaking during a medical panel co-hosted by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and Ethnic Media Services (EMS). The discussion was held to offer information about vaccinating children 6 months to 4 years old against COVID-19 to parents, caregivers and the media.

“I let them know that ultimately it is their decision to make, and I am here as a resource,” Miller added. “It is normal to be afraid of the unknown and to want to protect your child. With that in mind, vaccination is the best protection around.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines made by Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech earlier this month. The agency’s approval came on the heels of news that COVID-19 is now the fifth leading cause of death in children 1-4 years old and the fourth leading cause of death for children younger than 1.

“These are sobering statistics for all of us,” said Sandy Close, EMS director and moderator of the news briefing. “Vaccination is an important tool to protect their long-term health against COVID-19 and helps achieve full family protection against this deadly virus.”

Panelists said it is a myth that COVID does not affect children. The CDC reports that 1 in 5 hospitalized children end up in the ICU. And during the Omicron surge, children were hospitalized five times more than in the Delta surge.

“There is definitely still a need for vaccinations for the whole population,” said Dr. Lucia Abascal, a physician and researcher at CDPH. “There is this idea that Omicron is milder, but if we look at children’s data in this age group, we can actually see that hospitalizations peaked as well as deaths. We have more and more evidence that kids are at an acute risk of COVID.”

Abascal detailed the steps of the vaccine approval process at the state and federal levels. An independent expert panel reviewed the data that Moderna and Pfizer provided and unanimously voted that the FDA approve the vaccine. The CDC was the final step of approval for the vaccine at the federal level.

Before California recommends any COVID vaccine, it is reviewed by The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, a commission comprising medical professionals and scientists convened by Washington, Oregon, Nevada and California.

Children 3 years old and above will be eligible to receive vaccines at pharmacies. However, children under 3 will need to get vaccinated at a pediatrician’s office or a community clinic.

California has purchased enough vaccinations for every child in the state. The first shipment of 500,000 doses will arrive next week. About 2.2 million children are eligible for vaccination in California.

The Moderna vaccine is a two-dose regimen like the adult shot, with a one-month wait between doses. The Pfizer vaccine requires three doses. The first dose is followed by the second 21 days later and the final dose comes 60 days after that.

Authorities familiar with the vaccine trials say the side effects of minor fever and pain at the injection site may be stronger for children who receive the Moderna shot.

Dr. Sarah Takekawa, an obstetrician-gynecologist, who is currently raising three children under age 5, was also a panelist.

Takekawa spoke to some of the concerns pregnant women may have. She said she was fully vaccinated before conceiving her third child. She received her booster while pregnant.

“I have seen firsthand what COVID-19 infection can do to otherwise extremely healthy young women during their pregnancies. Watching adults who are otherwise healthy succumb to the disease, it seems easy to us to make this decision about wanting to get vaccinated and encouraging other parents to have their children vaccinated.

Visit Vaccinate All 58 to learn more about the safe and effective vaccines available for all children in California ages 6 months and older.

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