The Importance of Fair Housing in Asset Building
Homeownership is one of the key ways families build assets. In order to lead strong, stable lives, families need to be able to buy or rent stable housing, which is the fundamental purpose of the fair housing laws. Like most everything in life, this topic is complicated. It is not just about buying or renting the home of your choice, but also affording the home of your choice. Unfortunately, lots of things stand in the way of that goal.
The cycle can start when you are only a child. If you live in a low-to-moderate income neighborhood, there is a good chance you won’t have the most well-funded schools in your district, which then make it difficult for you to get the quality education that you deserve, which, in turn, makes it difficult to get the job opportunities that will allow you to be able to afford the home of your choice. Since access to good employment opportunities is often dependent upon who you know, being in a neighborhood without anyone in the field you wish to enter may hurt your chances of getting the job you desire.
And what if you do overcome those issues and do get a great job opportunity? Maybe you are now looking to purchase your first home. Where are the affordable first homes located? Often times, they may still be in your current neighborhood or a neighborhood very similar. One of the reason is zoning issues. Many localities or neighborhood association bylaws do not allow affordable homes in certain neighborhoods just because of the conditions they require. The strict conditions can include the amount of land that needs to be allocated to each house, the amount of brick that has to be on a home, or the fact that every vehicle needs to be in a garage, making the price of these homes out of reach for many of our potential homeowners. Unfortunately, the situation is not any more rosy for those living in rental housing trying to save for their first home in order to build assets.
And so the cycle continues.
Fair housing laws cover whether or not there is redlining, or families are only shown certain housing opportunities or landlords make it difficult to rent, all of which are very important, but we need to remember that there are also underlying conditions and regulations that make asset building harder for low-to-moderate income families. We need to think about how to allow them the opportunity to make connections, have access to a good education, transportation to good job opportunities, and access to the skills that can make that happen.
We need to break the cycle.
Marie Morse, Executive Director of HomesteadCS