BY MICHAEL STAHL
A recent StreetEasy.com blog post by a site data scientist, Alan Lightfeldt, indicates that African-Americans and Hispanics are, by a considerable margin, far less likely to own homes in New York City when compared to Asian Americans and whites. The numbers are arguably more favorable to minorities within the diverse confines of Queens, but the statistics bear some troubling truths.
“When it comes to attaining the dream of homeownership in New York City, race matters,” Lightfeldt wrote in an email to the Queens Tribune. Forty one percent of whites that live in the city own their home, and equal percentage of Asian Americans in New York can lay the same claim. However, just 16.1 percent of Hispanic New Yorkers and 26.5 percent of black city dwellers own a home.
Those figures are relatively comparable to national averages that also reveal Hispanics and blacks do not enjoy as high homeownership rates as whites and Asian Americans.
Still, the numbers that are truly disturbing are those that summarize racial-line breakdowns of mortgage application filings and denials. Though whites and Asians make up 46 percent of the city population, they account for 68.7 percent of conventional home loan applications, while harboring the lowest denial rates.
“Conventional loan applications from black and Hispanic applicants [in the city] are twice as likely to be denied as those from white applicants, underscoring the significant racial divide in access to mortgages,” Lightfeldt wrote. “Credit scores are … often lower within minority communities, [and] without a solid credit history or high enough income, applicants are often shut out of the conventional mortgage market entirely.”
Though only 32 percent of people living in New York City own their home, 43.9 percent of people in Queens do, the second-highest percentage for a borough in the city, trailing just Staten Island, which sees 67.4 percent of its citizens claim homeownership. Queens easily boasts the highest percentage of black homeownership of any borough, and that 47.4 percent rate tops the national number as well. White homeownership in Queens is drastically lower than the national rate by a nearly 23 percent clip, which makes for more balanced rates across the board in the borough, and is at least partially reflective of the concept that Queens is the most diverse urban area in the world. But Queens follows the city’s suit in terms of the racial breakdowns in mortgage application denial rates.
“While true that Queens is unique in that there is no dominant racial majority like in other boroughs,” Lightfeldt observed, “the racial divide in mortgage access is still very apparent in [the borough]. There is a significant disparity between who lives in Queens and who is actually applying for home loans.”
Only 13.4 percent of all conventional home loan requests are attributed to hopeful black and Hispanic buyers, even though they make up more than 45 percent of the borough’s population.
Those numbers are virtually inverted when it comes to Asian American homeownership rates in Queens. “Although Asians make up 24.25 percent of the population in Queens,” Lightfeldt wrote, “they account for 41.6 percent of all conventional mortgage applications.” He added that Asian Americans in Queens are extremely proactive in applying for mortgages and that they earn comparatively high median household incomes—two important advantages they seem to have over prospective buyers in other minority groups.
When compared to national figures, the grand total of all mortgage applications are denied at a much higher rate in Queens, regardless of the filers’ ethnicity, though. Given the prices of Manhattan real estate, it is, at first, mildly ironic to see the borough boast the lowest conventional loan denial rate. However, Manhattan also has the highest concentration of white occupants and the highest percentage of white mortgage applicants. Considering that Queens’ ratio of white citizens is nearly 22 percent less than it is in Manhattan, one can more easily deduce the reasons for the disparity between mortgage denial rates in the two boroughs.
To come to these conclusions StreetEasy.com used data provided by the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, which compels banks and lending institutions to make publicly available the demographic information of mortgage applicants. The site also used one-year census estimates for New York City from 2013 to learn the median household incomes by race.