Black Americans are saddled with an overwhelming majority of the nation’s $1.7 trillion student debt — and according to Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge, that debt is one of the key factors preventing Black Americans from buying and owning their own home.
Business Insider’s Ayelet Sheffey reported on the Federal Housing Administration’s press release on Friday, June 18, where they announced it would be “updating its student loan monthly payment calculations in an effort to ‘remove barriers and provide more access to affordable single-family FHA-insured mortgage financing for creditworthy individuals with student loan debt, which has a disproportionate impact on people of color.’”
In an interview with Axios, Fudge said, “the disproportionately low rate of Black homeownership had driven HUD to reassess student loan calculation policies when determining homeowner assistance, which will increase homeownership access for communities of color.”
“Who has student debt? Poor people, Black people, brown people,” Fudge said. “We’re the people who carry the most debt. And so, the system is already skewed toward us not being creditworthy.”
Although she believes there are a number of different factors that make it harder for Black men and women to buy homes, Fudge also said that one of the leading problems is the country’s ongoing failure to enforce the Fair Housing Act. Passed in 1968, the act is supposed to protect against discrimination “because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.” Although the act is law, Fudge said the policy is not enforced nearly as often as it should be, allowing rampant discrimination to continue to persist in many communities.
“For example, the Indianapolis Star [has] reported that the value of a Black woman’s home shot up by $149,000 when a white friend stood in for her,” Sheffey wrote. “Insider reported last year that Black families pay over $60,000 more in homeownership costs than white families.”
Fudge said this ongoing discrimination is only exacerbated with student loan debt, resulting in the lack of Black homeownership. According to Shelley, up to 36 different civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, have called for the elimination of student debt as a way to “help Black and brown borrowers build wealth and enable our economy to move forward as millions of Americans are able to start families, buy homes and set up small businesses.”
Upon graduation, the NAACP said, “Black borrowers typically owe 50% more than white borrowers, and after four years, Black borrowers owe 100% more.”
“Student loan debt continues to suppress the economic prosperity of Black Americans across the nation,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “You cannot begin to address the racial wealth gap without addressing the student loan debt crisis. You just can’t address one without the other. Plain and simple.”
Fudge wholeheartedly agreed, telling Axios that “for people of color, especially Black people, homeownership is wealth. It’s not only wealth to us, but it’s generational wealth.”