Black Bay Area residents own homes at half the rate of white neighbors. Could $ 500 million help change that?

The Berkeley where Darris Young works today in a downtown co-working space isn’t the same diverse East Bay city where he grew up.

Berkeley’s Black population has been nearly cut in half since 1980, as Young’s own family and friends first left for more affordable nearby locales like El Cerrito or Antioch. More and more, he said, loved ones are heading for distant destinations like Atlanta.

It’s a “sorrowful” trend that the nonprofit director hoped to slow by advocating for a first-of-its-kind $ 500 million Black Bay Area Regional Housing Fund — a state budget proposal that has so far taken a backseat to other priorities in a year marked by steep competition for a record $ 98 billion surplus.

After two years of rhetoric about racial equity and a revival of debate about reparations, Young and dozens of local groups backing the idea maintain that officials would be wise to consider the experimental proposal in the state’s most expensive region.

“There is a reckoning,” said Young, director of organizing for Black health at the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative, or BARHII. “And that reckoning needs to be recognized by our leaders.”

The proposed housing fund would provide $ 325 million in direct financial support, including down payment assistance for Black homebuyers and capital for Black housing developers. About $ 75 million would go to community planning efforts to keep Black residents in the region, and another $ 75 million would be allocated to build capacity at Black-led community groups working on housing issues.

The fund was not included in an initial $ 308 billion budget deal approved by the Legislature late Wednesday. Supporters are hopeful at least a portion of the funds could still be allocated through more complex last-minute negotiations, or in a future budget.

This vacant lot, located at 3109 Filbert St. in Richmond, will eventually be converted into new homes operated by Richmond Neighborhood Housing Services. The affordable housing group and other Black-led community organizations stood to benefit from a proposed $ 500 million state budget proposal to support Black homeownership and curb displacement, which has so far lost out to other political priorities.

This vacant lot, located at 3109 Filbert St. in Richmond, will eventually be converted into new homes operated by Richmond Neighborhood Housing Services. The affordable housing group and other Black-led community organizations stood to benefit from a proposed $ 500 million state budget proposal to support Black homeownership and curb displacement, which has so far lost out to other political priorities.

Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle

“There were major investments in housing, but there was not the level of commitment necessary in the Black community,” Assembly member Lori Wilson, who represents parts of Solano and Contra Costa counties, said during a news conference on Monday. more to right the wrongs of the past. ”

From the legacy of redlining and deed restrictions barring Black homeownership to enduring wealth gaps and predatory financial practices, the root causes of the region’s racial housing divide are many. The symptoms are still glaring.

San Francisco’s Black population has plummeted 43% and Oakland’s 40% since 1980, Census data shows. Black Oaklanders account for up to 70% of the city’s homeless population. Across California, 37% of Black families own their homes — a decline from 1960, In the nine-county Bay Area, the Black homeownership rate is an even lower 34%, according to an analysis of federal data by the Bay Area Equity Atlas, slightly more than half the rate of the 63% of white residents who own their homes.

While the disparities are decades in the making, the idea for a fund explicitly targeting these racial gaps stems from a Bay Area Black Regional Housing Advisory Taskforce, or Black HAT, that emerged after the uprisings following the 2020 murder of George Floyd. Among the fund’s more than three dozen backers are housing advocacy groups, civil rights groups like the NAACP, local politicians, Black developers and urban planning groups such as SPUR.

“There have been a lot of kitchen table conversations all across the Bay about people who are moving,” said BARHII executive director Melissa Jones. “It feels like all of that has come together.”

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