By Buck Wargo
A national organization of real estate professionals is coming to Las Vegas in February to “declare war on the decline of black homeownership” and given the rates in Southern Nevada, it will be the perfect locale to spread that message.
The midwinter conference of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, the oldest minority trade association in the nation, runs Feb. 8-13 at The Mirage. Some 800 to 1,000 people are expected from throughout the nation, nearly doubling what such conferences normally draw. About 100 local real estate professionals are expected to attend.
Las Vegas Realtor Shanta Patton, a regional vice president with NAREB and the national education chair in charge of setting up the agenda for the February conference, said the theme of the conference has been driven by new NAREB President Donnell Williams, who’s leading the charge to increase black homeownership.
“We’re doing our campaign of sounding the alarm on black homeownership, and we see more conversations happening because we’re putting that positive focus on it,” Patton said. “We’re seeing momentum that we haven’t seen in a while. We’re excited about the progress we’re making on the national level. It’s not near enough where we need it to be, but at least we can see an increase after declining year after year.”
A recent report on Las Vegas prepared by Apartment List showed that black homeownership is below the national average and has a wide gap between other ethnic groups.
The homeownership rate is 62 percent among whites, 54 percent among Hispanics but only 35 percent among blacks, according to the Census data for Las Vegas. Nationally, the homeownership rate is 70 percent for whites and 42 percent for blacks.
Having the conference in Las Vegas will focus local media attention on the issue, Patton said. The plan is to have members of Congress from Nevada participate in the discussion at a legislative luncheon to talk about homeownership among minorities and affordable housing in Las Vegas, she said.
“That will be our chance to bring light to this issue and our challenges,” Patton said. “We can also focus on what we are doing well and what we can do better.”
Patton said she has requested information from Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. for data dealing with homeownership rates and plans to talk about strategies going forward to help increase that rate.
“I recently sat on the panel with Henderson Mayor Debra March, and they had a roundtable on affordable housing and what it looks like for minorities,” Patton said. “I see more and more of our public officials being open to the conversation than they have ever been before. It’s a great opportunity for NAREB to get out there and educate our public officials on the need for affordable housing and the need to increase black homeownership and minority homeownership in general. We want to advocate for them and sound the alarm.”
Patton said a big part of the NAREB mission to help boost those numbers is pushing for an increase in homeownership rates among black millennials. A recent report by Apartment List said the black homeownership rate for millennials — 23 to 38 — is 28 percent in Las Vegas compared with 21 percent nationally.
NAREB produces an annual report called the State of Housing in Black America, which says there are 1.7 million mortgage-ready black millennials that are making more than $100,000 a year, but they’re still renting, Patton said.
“The president’s initiative is for millennials to purchase a home instead of a car first,” Patton said. “That’s typically the issue when it comes to qualification. Some of them have car payments upward of $800 or $900 a month.”
As for Las Vegas, Patton said more needs to be done here on educating millennials on financial literacy and the importance of homeownership. Many saw what their parents went through with the financial crisis, and that affected the whole family.
“Now, those children are adults and they stay away from the concept,” Patton said. “They want a simpler life and to them they can rent luxury apartments with all the amenities without any additional responsibilities. They don’t see the importance of homeownership, but only the bad of it with their parents. You have to focus on financial literacy and the importance of homeownership and why it makes more sense than renting and building generational wealth and equity.”
Patton said they’ve already made an impact by holding community wealth-building days dealing with literacy and credit reports and how to improve them.
“Locally, we’ve focused a lot on how to make that work,” Patton said. “We have done faith-based initiatives where we have gone into churches and teach the attendees on the importance of homeownership.”
The issue has come to greater focus, locally. The Review-Journal real estate section recently wrote about the gap in homeownership rates, and Patton said it’s not surprising the numbers are so low for Las Vegas.
“When you look at the gap between a non-minority homeowner and minority homeowners, it’s really sad,” Patton said. “But we have to remember it’s always been a big gap. Because of predatory lending, a lot of African-Americans lost their homeownership during the decline in the recession and have not been able to get that back.”
Mosi Gatling, president of the Las Vegas chapter of NAREB, said she has disseminated the article to partners and homebuilders and said many weren’t aware that there’s such a discrepancy over black homeownership.
“They’ve had no clue of the racial component,” Gatling said. “People have avoided the race breakdown and whether our local demographics have changed. People were enlightened to see those stats. It’s a big disparity, and now there’s something for us at NAREB to grab and develop a program at the state level to work on that.”
One option is giving people easier access to qualify for state down payment assistance programs, Gatling said.
Patton said that for African-Americans, purchasing a home is an emotional experience and a huge accomplishment as part of achieving the American dream. To have lost their home, it was more than a bad investment, she said.
“It was life-altering and because of that a lot of black homeowners don’t want to do that again,” Patton said. “One of the things we struggle with is trying to deal with the chance of it happening again. Until we deal with that, it will be difficult to show the importance to millennials and their children. It’s a process, and it starts with education.”
While Patton said it’s harder for lenders to put buyers in bad loans today given changes in practices, many lenders are unwilling to participate in down payment assistance programs. That’s vital because minority buyers have the opportunity to purchase, but they may not have the five, 10 or 20 percent down, she said.
“I think a lot of loan officers are not educating the buyers on the down payment assistance opportunities that we have here because they get paid less,” Patton said.
Early registration costs through Jan. 2 are $299 for NAREB members and $399 for non-members. The prices escalate as the conference approaches. For more information, visit events.eply.com/Mid-Winter-Conference-2020.
“The conference focuses on advocacy but training agents to function in today’s market and how to state competitive,” Patton said. “I hope Realtors will level up business and focus on customer experience and learning how to keep the customer relations but be powered by technology.”
CREDIT: Buck Wargo \ Las Vegas Review-Journal