The Biden administration is zeroing in on homeownership and small business development as avenues to close racial wealth gaps, announcing a spate of new programs Tuesday aimed at supporting communities of color and disadvantaged neighborhoods. The announcement comes on the centennial of the “Black Wall Street” massacre in Tulsa, Okla., a racist attack on a thriving Black community that left some 300 dead and thousands homeless in 1921.
The actions the administration will take, according to a White House fact sheet, include issuing new rules to address bias in the appraisal process, spur production of affordable housing, and encourage greater federal contracts with minority-owned businesses. These moves are meant as a reinvestment in “communities that have been left behind by failed policies,” the fact sheet reads. “Because disparities in wealth compound like an interest rate, the disinvestment in Black families in Tulsa and across the country throughout our history is still felt sharply today.”
The new measures include:
Reducing housing discrimination: The Department of Housing and Urban Development will launch a first-of-its-kind interagency effort to address inequity in home appraisals and issue aggressive rules to curb bias in the homebuying process.
Spurring infrastructure overhaul: A new $10 billion Community Revitalization Fund to support community-led civic infrastructure projects that create innovative shared amenities, spark new local economic activity, provide services, build community wealth, and strengthen social cohesion. Also, a $15 billion grant program will provide assistance for the planning, removal, or retrofitting of transportation projects that intend to remove barriers to community connectivity.
Opening up affordable housing opportunities: A new Neighborhood Homes Tax Credit to attract private investment in the development and rehabilitation of affordable homes for low- and moderate-income home buyers. Additionally, a new $5 billion program called the Unlocking Possibilities Program will provide funding to cities that reduce barriers to producing affordable housing.
Supporting minority businesses: The federal government will grow its contracting activity with small, disadvantaged businesses by 50%—an additional $100 billion over five years. Additionally, a new $31 billion investment in small business programs aims to increase access to capital and provide mentoring, networking, and other forms of technical assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged businesses.
The National Association of REALTORS® says the new measures acknowledge the importance of homeownership as a primary means of building wealth and will strengthen fair housing ideals. “The horrific acts of violence and property destruction that occurred in Tulsa 100 years ago, and the subsequent public and private policies that frustrated the recovery of ‘Black Wall Street,’ help illustrate why racial wealth gaps persist in America today,” NAR President Charlie Oppler said in a statement Tuesday.
Oppler said NAR will play a role in helping to shape the Biden administration's housing priorities: “NAR is particularly encouraged by the administration’s most recent efforts to address inequities in the home appraisal process, and we support a thorough review of the current appraisal system alongside both public and private stakeholders. We look forward to working with the White House and HUD on other upcoming rulemakings that seek to more effectively combat housing discrimination and redress the legacy of residential racial segregation.”