A National Homeownership Month Spotlight on the Failure of the G.I. Bill to Advance Homeownership Among Black Americans
On the Value of a “National Homeownership Month”
It is without a doubt that, at this very moment, our country is in the midst of a racial reckoning with its historic past. We have a national conversation going on about how to address everything from federal reparations for slavery, to reconciliation for the Tulsa Massacre, to the behemoth Southern Baptist Church potentially fracturing irreparably over its racism, and, of course, the many issues raised by Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in the spring of 2020.
So, to that end, during this National Homeownership Month, recently declared by President Biden (as well as predecessors Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, starting in 1992), we—as a nation—are tasked with reflecting on the financial and emotional value of homeownership, as well as why it is such a pivotal aspect of the American Dream. And, more importantly, how homeownership has been denied to poor and minority Americans since its founding. Because of this, we at AHP 75 seek to highlight various historical elements of homeownership discrimination in our nation’s past that have gotten us where we are today: amid an epidemic of housing and wealth inequality that we hope our country corrects sooner than later.
Our blog, thus far, has focused on many aspects of homeownership inequality, particularly in how poor and minority Americans have been systemically and purposely forced into a place where the ability to become homeowners is nearly impossible—other than for the luckiest and most industrious among us. We encourage readers to browse through our other blog posts to learn not only about the history of homeownership disparity in our country, but also the ways in which aspiring homebuyers can actually achieve homeownership.
Black Homeownership Matters
There was a time when the U.S. Government understood and advocated for homeownership in America as not only a right for every person living here, but a necessity for the financial long-term success of individuals, businesses, and communities. Because of this, various government laws and agencies—such as the Federal Housing Authority, the Fair Housing Act, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and many more—were created to encourage homeownership and community growth and sustainability.
Sadly, because of our nation’s troubled past with discrimination—toward poor, minority, LGBTQ, and other people deemed less worthy by the institutions of power—these various agencies, laws, and regulations fell far short of their goal. Of course, White American homeownership skyrocketed to nearly 75% shortly after the creation of the Federal Housing Authority, but many other groups were purposely blocked from joining the ranks of homeowners. And so it is still necessary, even to this day, to continue to shed light on why homeownership is so essential to financial, physical, and emotional stability.
One such group that has often overlooked in the larger national conversation on homeownership inequality is Black Veterans. Specifically, in regard to the creation of the G.I. Bill in the aftermath of WWII. However, it is important to note the heartbreaking and unpatriotic treatment that so many of our Black veterans have faced historically, beyond just housing discrimination. Black veterans have returned home from wars, only to meet with violence and even death at the hands of their fellow Americans. They have been denied jobs and education. They have been arrested and banished from the very communities they risked their lives to serve. And yet, Black Americans persist in defending the very country that treats them this way. A reward is due to Black veterans, indeed. For suffering at home, and on battlefields abroad. And while this might seem like an entirely different discussion, I would argue that one of the biggest rewards would be to give our Black veterans actual access to homeownership so they can create and sustain financial stability for themselves and future generations.
When American veterans, in general, came home from WWII to find a country whose economy and manufacturing had been completely retooled and reconstructed during the war, they were largely in need of help from the government to get on stable footing. The factories were now creating completely different products and machines than they had been prior to the start of the war, and the economy was entirely different in how it functioned. Vets, who had risked their lives (and nearly 420,000 of whom had given their lives) defending our country, were deemed to be worthy of some sort of reward for their sacrifice. The Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (also known as the G.I. Bill) was the reward our U.S. Government felt all American Veterans had earned for their service.
The G.I. Bill earmarked funding to help vets pay for education, job training, and even buy homes (among other things, such as war stipends for service, and small housing vouchers). But, in keeping with the long-running practice of discrimination of our country, less than 2% of Black American veterans from WWII were ever able to purchase homes. 98% of the homes purchased by American WWII veterans, thanks to the G.I. Bill and Veterans-Administration-backed mortgage loans, were granted to White American veterans. This would have been a pivotal moment in history for Black Americans and other veterans of color. A chance to join the now burgeoning middle class, which was growing exactly as the federal government had intended and hoped.
Tragically, and because of the many federally sanctioned systems and practices of housing discrimination, such as redlining, which were well-established at the time of the G.I. Bill’s creation, not only were Black Veterans denied access to homeownership, they were also denied virtually every other benefit promised to them. Paid education? Barely. Job training. Hardly. It seemed the G.I. Bill had been misnamed. The veterans who benefitted from this law were overwhelmingly White.
Toward Righting the Wrongs
These discriminatory actions toward Black veterans are an affront to our fellow Americans that we should not take lightly. In a recent article by The New Yorker, a study found that the racial wealth gap between Americans has grown so wide, it would take a mind-boggling 228 years for Black Americans to achieve the same amount of wealth enjoyed by White Americans today. (For the record, “today” in this article was five years ago, and the racial wealth gap has grown even larger still.) Had Black veterans been able to actually purchase homes after returning from war at the same rate as their white counterparts, perhaps this racial wealth gap would be significantly smaller today.
When we live in a country where the few Black generational landowners who still own land are being forced from their properties without much outcry, then it is obvious the many types of housing discrimination featured in this post and throughout the AHP 75 blog are not remotely a thing of the past. They are happening at this very moment. Redlining is illegal, but “shadow redlining” tactics still persist to this day. It is unfathomable that a business such as AHP 75 would even need to exist in the 21st Century. But, sadly, we do.
The good news is that because of our initiative at AHP 75—and because of our partnerships with other socially just ally companies and real estate agents—we have brought together a series of tools to help individual Americans of any income, or race, or other historically oppressed group achieve homeownership. We understand the long and troubled past that has gotten us to where we are today: where 75% of White Americans own their homes, but only 42% of Black and 44% of Hispanic Americans do. We see this as an injustice that not only goes back to our country’s founding, but also threatens to persist long into the future—if something tangible is not done.
Our initiative is designed to purposely help any American systematically take meaningful steps toward homeownership and one day become a proud homeowner who will reap all the rewards that come with this all-too-important classification. We encourage anyone who is interested in buying a home, regardless of your personal background, to visit our website and see the tools and services AHP 75 has to offer. Being a homeowner is possible. For everyone. Just take the first step.
Are you ready to become a homeowner? Visit AHP75.com to learn about our homebuyer programs designed specifically to help you join the ranks of homeowners and get onto the path of financial stability and wealth generation.
Aaron Morales is the Social Justice Writer for AHP 75, based out of Chicago, IL.