Foreclosure Reports Highlight Racial Disparity

Last week, we wrote about a campout to stop South Park homeowner Jeremy Griffin from being evicted after a foreclosure. As we noted, the housing crisis may be officially over, but foreclosures keep happening. Two new reports make that point as well, and they highlight an aspect of the foreclosure wave not much discussed: Minorities have been hit especially hard.

That has gotten the local NAACP involved, as well as a group of local pastors who belong to a group called the United Black Clergy.

The president of the clerical group is the Rev. Lawrence Willis of TrueVine Missionary Baptist Church, which recently moved from South Seattle to Skyway. In a report released in early May, put out by his group as well as the Washington Community Action Network, Willis tells of how foreclosure has arisen as “one of the main issues” his congregation has had to deal with in the last couple of years.

The report arose in part from conversations between United Black Clergy, Washington CAN! and Seattle King County NAACP, according to NAACP vice-president Gerald Hankerson. As they realized the effect foreclosures were having on the minority community, they decided to do an analysis by zip code.

The early May report, entitled “The Wall Street Wrecking Ball, is the product of that analysis. Sure enough, Hankerson says, it found a preponderance of foreclosures in the 98118 zip code, which encompasses a broad swath of South Seattle including the Rainier Valley--”an area where black folks live,” he says. According to the report, that zip code was the site of 1,179 foreclosures between 2008 and 2012.

That wasn’t the only zip code with a pronounced streak of foreclosures. The zip codes for Tukwila and Des Moines (98168 and 98198) each had even more foreclosures than Rainier Valley’s, 1,360 and 1,377 respectively in the same time period. Both locales have a large number of minorities, points out Washington CAN! Spokesperson Rachel DeCruz.

Those south King County cities also have a lot of poverty, a point underlined by a Brookings Institute book released yesterday, which examines the changing demographics of suburbs.

Washington CAN!, along with the NAACP and the Alliance for a Just Society, released a second report last week entitled “Wasted Wealth: The Foreclosure Epidemic, a Generational Crisis for Communities of Color.” Looking specifically at 2012 foreclosure data, that report found that in Seattle-area communities dominated by minorities, the rate of foreclosure was 11 per 1,000 households—more than twice the rate in predominantly white communities.

Of course, the housing crisis has not exactly spared whites. And this point is brought out in the reports too when they turn to homes that are “underwater,” that is worth less than the mortgage on them. One zip code with a high number of underwater homes is 98103, covering Freemont and Phinney Ridge, neither known for their racial diversity. Both are affluent neighborhoods too, so it makes sense that residents may have paid more for their homes in the bubble than they became worth in the bust.

One third of Seattle homeowners are still underwater, according to early May report. Which gets to another point its authors are trying to make. Says Washington CAN!’s DeCruz, It’s not getting better.”

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