The ownership of property has always been a great pursuit for Americans with a great social divide. In fact, as Christians, we often hold sacred the pursuit of home and homeland, such as Israel’s pursuit of the biblical Promised Land. Like all human endeavors these pursuits are fraught with gross imperfections. Unfortunately, in American history there were many problems with unbiblical concepts of all kinds of property ownership. In fact, greed and hatred slipped into our national concepts of ownership in the form of African slavery and Native American genocide.
During Reconstruction the government thought that giving former slaves 40 acres and a mule would bring about equality of opportunity. It did not work. In those days, southerners were unwilling to allow Blacks political power and they blocked true black assimilation. This is how the Black community ended up in segregated neighborhoods and inner-city tenements. Segregation depressed values and economic opportunity, which prevented them from building wealth, pursuing educational opportunities, which brings us to the reasons there is a 10x wealth disparity between blacks and whites. Those are dark and dreary remnants of our past, the impacts of which remain present with us today. There is great debate as to where we go from here.
Ownership of property, particularly one’s own home remains a great American pursuit. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau home equity is the top source of the average American household’s net worth. However, it also remains a great American divide. The median home equity of Black households is $60,000, which is about half of the $118,000 median equity of white households. As in our country’s history, current government policies can either perpetuate the great divide or work to narrow intergenerational wealth gaps and advance the great pursuit.
That is why, as a pastor, author, and national co-chair of the UHOUSI Initiative, I am elated to see that President Trump has committed to “Advance home ownership opportunities and enhance financial literacy in the Black Community” as one of his Platinum Plan promises to Black Americans. More specifically, the plan commits to “Champion federal policy reforms to advance homeownership initiatives.”
As I have personally shared with the President, urban safety strategies teamed with economic uplift are critical for long term racial healing in our nation. People who own the places they live in are far less apt to destroy them. They are often the most invested in their community’s economic progress. As a pastor, I preach and teach financial literacy and accountability, concepts that in our faith we commonly refer to as “stewardship.” I believe that God has entrusted all of us with different resources and expects us to manage them wisely. The ability to acquire and maintain a home is good stewardship. As an author, I have recently published a new book entitled, A Manifesto: Christian America’s Contract with Minorities. In this book, I specifically speak to homeownership as a critical component of much-needed wealth creation in the Black Community. The creation and accumulation of generational wealth will level the economic playing field for blacks and other minorities.
Finally, as the national co-chair of the UHOUSI Initiative, I help lead the charge to bring housing literacy and down payment assistance to African Americans, other minorities and millennials across America. The UHOUSI Initiative is sponsored by Chenoa Fund, a leading national down payment assistance provider. Chenoa Fund is Native American government owned by a federally chartered Native American government lender. Ownership sponsoring ownership. I love it!
Where do we go from here? We need to celebrate and expand federal government policies and programs that provide down payment assistance to all credit-worthy, hardworking Americans who are unable to receive down payment assistance help from relatives and friends. We need to ensure that these programs are monitored on a program-specific basis so that they do not pose undue risk to the government insurance fund upon which they rely. We need to do the quiet, steady work that advances this great pursuit while continuing to close the great divide.
Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. is National Co-Chair of the UHOUSI Initiative, Senior Pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and author of the newly released book, A Manifesto: Christian America’s Contract with Minorities.