Nat Geo Does A Deep Dive On Black Homeownership Equity

Photo Credit: Elias Williams - Black families began moving to the St. Albans area in Queens, New York, in the 1930s, despite restrictions that were designed to keep them from buying homes there. In 1948 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial restrictions couldn’t be enforced.

( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) Nat Geo “A Place Where The Dream Lives” Continues the Conversation on Making Homeownership Fair For Blacks

ENSPIRE Contributor: LaShonda Thompson

An intriguing story on Black homeownership in the community of St. Albans, New York, is featured in National Geographic’s new October issue. The story, “A Place Where The Dream Lives,” by Michael A. Fletcher (writer at The Undefeated and a native New Yorker), is now available on the Nat Geo Race in America Hub. It looks at Black homeownership equity across the country and how it differs in this quaint neighborhood where Black residents have built their net worth year after year.

The in-depth feature joins the ongoing conversation of homeownership equity across racial lines but through the lens of a town that has successfully enabled many Black families to thrive in the homeownership market. Residents of St. Albans, including the grandmother of the photographer, New Yorker Elias Williams, share their journey to building their generational wealth and becoming homeowners in this predominantly Black middle-class neighborhood.

Nat Geo
National Geographic

Here are some additional takeaways + timely data from this feature: 

  1. A typical non-Hispanic white family’s wealth is eight times that of a typical Black family—a legacy of bias in housing.
  2. The majority of homes with white residents have been owner-occupied since the 1950s, but for most Black Americans this gateway to success and stability has been blocked by racial discrimination, lower wages, and less access to credit. 
  3. Recent census data show the white homeownership rate at 70 percent, compared with 42 percent for Black Americans—a gulf even larger than it was 100 years ago.
  4. At the county level, places where the Black homeownership rate is the same as or higher than the white homeownership rate are few and far between. Queens, with its long-standing Black middle-class neighborhoods like St. Albans, is by far the largest example of a county with homeownership equity.
William “Count” Basie, the legendary jazz pianist and composer, lived in this Adelaide Road house. He was one of the first celebrities to move to St. Albans in the 1940s, influencing other well-known Black entertainers and athletes who made the neighborhood home. (Photo by Elias Williams)

For years, African Americans have encountered challenges while attempting to purchase a home, which has traditionally served as an entryway to prosperity for many Americans. Racial covenants once prohibited Black people from owning property in St. Albans. Following the removal of those barriers by the courts, Black homeowners were frequently harassed and even threatened by their white neighbors.

National Geographic “A Place Where The Dream Lives,” is a story that is worth the read. For more information on the story, visit the Nat Geo Website Here.

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