Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) proposed a $100 billion plan to encourage black homeownership on Saturday at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The plan calls for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to make $25,000 available to black buyers to help with down payments and closing costs.
Harris also proposes to require credit rating agencies to change the way they rate borrowers, and to pass tougher anti-discrimination laws.
“By taking these steps we can shrink the wealth gap between Black and White households by at least one third,” Harris told the festival. Her speech was well-received, with Daily Kos reporting that it “rock[ed] the house.”
In a statement on her website, Harris blamed the racial gap in home ownership on redlining — banks’ historical practice of denying loans to buyers within certain geographic areas — and on the G.I. Bill, which disproportionately benefited white veterans.
She also blamed the Great Recession — though without citing any particular discriminatory action:
Black and minority families were also disproportionately impacted by the subprime mortgage crisis and the subsequent Great Recession. Throughout the subprime market, Black borrowers were subjected to higher cost and higher risk loans than white borrowers, even when both had similar levels of creditworthiness. During the years of recovery, 2009-2011, the wealth gap between white households and households of color widened in part due to housing-market weakness.
Previously, President George W. Bush had made increased homeownership by black and Hispanic Americans a priority. In 2002, he declared: “Too many American families, too many minorities do not own a home. There is a home ownership gap in America. The difference between Anglo America and African American and Hispanic home ownership is too big. And we’ve got to focus the attention on this nation to address this.”
Home ownership among minorities did increase — until the subprime mortgage crash. Critics blamed Bush’s aggressive drive for home ownership for the financial crisis. In an article titled, “Bush drive for home ownership fueled housing bubble,” the New York Times wrote in December 2008:
From his earliest days in office, Bush paired his belief that Americans do best when they own their own homes with his conviction that markets do best when left alone. Bush pushed hard to expand home ownership, especially among minority groups, an initiative that dovetailed with both his ambition to expand Republican appeal and the business interests of some of his biggest donors. But his housing policies and hands-off approach to regulation encouraged lax lending standards.
The Times noted that Bush had tried to rein in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But Democrats on the House Financial Service Committee shielded the government-backed lenders, leading to market expectations that the speculative risk of mortgage-backed securities would be minimal.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.