The Black Homeownership Gap: A Fair Housing Leader’s Solutions

Down payment assistance and housing laws are highlighted by the president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance.
Linda Bell
By Linda Bell 
Updated
Edited by Beth Buczynski

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The Black-white homeownership gap is larger today than it was in 1968 when the Fair Housing Act, which outlawed discrimination when Americans buy or rent a home, apply for a mortgage or seek housing assistance, was signed, according to a 2020 report from the National Fair Housing Alliance.

Lisa Rice, president and CEO of the NFHA — a national organization dedicated to ending discrimination in housing — is one of the diverse voices working to identify strategies and solutions to address this disparity.

NerdWallet asked Rice to share how she got involved in fair housing, her perspectives on the homeownership gap and the changes that could improve opportunities for Black Americans.

Lisa Rice's lifelong pursuit of fair housing

Lisa Rice smiles at the camera in a close-in portrait

Lisa Rice

In 1963, while waiting for her birth, Rice's parents decided they wanted to buy a home. Her mother picked Sylvania, which was then an all-white suburb of Toledo, Ohio.

"When she connected with the white real estate agent, the agent told her that they couldn’t show her a house there," Rice says. "The agent even shared with her that if she showed homes in this area, she could lose her license."

Rice's family was directed to the Parkside Extensions neighborhood in Toledo, where her parents faced another obstacle. They couldn’t get a loan to buy the home they wanted, as the demographics of the area were changing from white to Black, a sign of risk to traditional lenders. This was redlining in action, and without other options, her parents were forced to get a loan with a higher interest rate from a subprime lender.

"Everybody was squarely middle income or upper income, but that didn’t matter," Rice says. "It was the complexion of the people that were living in the home."

Rice’s connection with fair housing continued in her teenage years. When she was 15, Rice interned at the Toledo Fair Housing Center.

"With that internship, I got bitten by the fair housing bug," she says. Years later, she would become the organization’s CEO.

And Rice has never looked back. She has over 35 years of experience in the fair housing industry. In her current role at the NFHA, Rice leads efforts to expand equal housing opportunities for millions of Americans.

With her extensive background and expertise, we asked Rice to share the biggest barriers to Black homeownership and how she thinks these should be addressed. (Responses have been edited for length and clarity.)

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