Mixed signals on home ownership

Mixed signals on home ownership

While the gap in homeownership rates between Black and white Americans is wider today than in the early 1960s, the Covid-19 pandemic helped narrow the divide. Federal pandemic relief, combined with historically low interest rates, caused the sharpest home ownership increase among Black, Latino and Asian Americans since the Great Recession. The Washington Post’s Abha Bhattarai and Alyssa Fowers explain that while these gains may be short-lived, they offer a glimpse into how to close the racial wealth gap in homeownership. 

Housing experts say 2021 will go down as a significant year for access to homeownership, reversing trends that largely bypassed people of color from the benefits of homeownership in the years following the 2007-2008 housing crisis. “We’re seeing a real spark in Black and Latino homeownership because people — in large part, millennials — were able to save during the pandemic,” said Andre Perry, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Now whether it’s sustained, that’s a different story. But what you saw in 2021 is a good thing because homeownership creates wealth and other opportunities that benefit entire communities.”

But The New York Times’ Ronda Kaysen reports on a National Association of Realtors survey showing that American homebuyers are older, whiter and wealthier than in recent memory as younger, first-time buyers are squeezed out of the market. 

The new findings add weight to a hard truth that many young families have experienced as they struggle to save money to buy a home, competing in the most brutally competitive housing market in modern history: They have been elbowed out by buyers who have something they might never have — all cash.

Louisiana’s shameful prison system
The conditions at a North Louisiana state prison were so severe that they violated the Constitutional ban on “cruel and unusual” punishment, a federal judge ruled this week. U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Foote found that David Wade Correctional Center in Homer violated the Eighth Amendment for the way it treated hundreds of men held in solitary confinement, stripping them of virtually all personal effects including clothing. The Shreveport Times’ Mackenzie Boucher reports on a ruling that was prompted by a suit brought by Disability Rights Louisiana. 

The court found that the prison’s use of strip cell status serves to inflict mental and physical torture. Through evidence the court discovered a disproportionate number of men housed in solitary confinement had a mental illness that the compound served as a depository for the mentally ill. (DRLA’s Melanie) Bray said, “when people with mental illness are sent to the state prison as punishment for a crime, the state has an obligation to provide baseline mental health care. The proof in this case showed that there was virtually no mental health care at DWCC, and that men there are suffering greatly as a result of the state’s indifference.” 

School privatization and teacher qualifications 
A national decline in the number of teachers with a bachelor’s degree in education has coincided with an increase in the number of charter schools, according to a new study from the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice (REACH). While charter schools receive taxpayer funding, they do not have to follow the same rules and accountability measures, such as having certified teachers in classrooms, as traditional public schools. Policy Watch’s Greg Childress examines the report: 

The researchers contend that charters have reduced the number of “new traditionally prepared” teachers because charter schools are less likely to hire teachers from more rigorous educator prep programs. Instead they employ those from the numerous alternative certification programs that have emerged largely in response to criticism that the traditional programs take too long to complete. “At the same time alternative certification has grown, charter schools have expanded, and 7% of students attend charter schools nationally,” Harris and Penn said in their report. “This raises the question: might the rise in charter schools be related to the rise in alternative preparation and certification?”

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor has reported that teachers in state public charter schools are much less likely than other public school teachers to be certified

Private Medicare plans pushed with deceptive tactics
Companies pushing private Medicare plans have engaged in deceptive and misleading marketing practices and preyed on vulnerable people with cognitive disabilities, according to a new investigation by the Senate Finance Committee. The plans in question are part of Medicare Advantage, a highly lucrative market for insurers that now enroll nearly half of all Medicare beneficiaries. Reed Abelson and Margot Sanger-Katz of the New York Times’ Upshot Blog examine the report and lay out some of the deceptive tactics that are that are used to push skimpy plans:

Marketing firms in several states sent mailers to Medicare beneficiaries made to look like correspondence from the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration or Medicare itself, the report said. The mailings are designed to generate leads for insurance brokers. … A 94-year-old woman with dementia in Missouri was sold a plan that did not include the hospital or doctors she saw in her rural area, according to another complaint. She was forced to travel significantly farther for her medical care.

Number of the Day
46% – Percentage of Black people living in their own homes. The rate increased in 2021 for the first time in two decades. (Source: Washington Post)