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Nearly one-fifth of Black applicants are denied a mortgage

Black mortgage applicants are denied 84% more often than white, study finds

Black mortgage applicants are denied 84% more often than white applicants according to an analysis of data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act by Zillow published on Thursday. The gap in mortgage denial rates between Blacks and whites has increased 10 percentage points since 2019.

Of Black mortgage applicants, 19.8% are denied a mortgage, the highest among all races and markedly higher than the 10.7% of white applicants who are denied. However, since 2019, mortgage denial rates have increased across all races. Black applicants in Mississippi (31%), Louisiana (26.1%), Arkansas (26%) and South Carolina (25.8%), see the highest mortgage denial rates in the country.

“Homeowners have seen a plethora of housing gains during the pandemic, but the growing disparity between Black and white homeownership rates and home values paints the picture of who those winners actually are,” Zillow economist Nicole Bachaud said in a statement. “While credit borrowers overall are stronger now than ever, the gap in credit access is growing along racial lines. Policies and interventions that target the barriers keeping Black Americans from homeownership are keys to achieving housing equity.”

Credit history (either low credit or a lack of credit history) is the most commonly cited reason that Black applicants are denied a mortgage, with 37% being denied for this reason. Typically, Black communities have limited access to financial services which is an important factor in building good credit history. In addition, communities of color have a higher number of non-traditional financial services, like payday lenders, the use of which can significantly hurt credit health.

While the rate of Black homeownership has improved since the Great Recession, reaching 44%, it’s still well below the 2004 peak of 49.7%. Additionally, Black-owned home values are still worth 16.7% less and homes overall. However, black-owned home values are appreciating at a higher rate than homes overall, but even at this year’s forecast appreciation rates, it would take over 22 years for them to catch up.

Due the COVID-19 pandemic, Black households were more likely than white to report a job or income loss, resulting in difficulty keeping up with mortgage or rent payments. In addition, households of color as well as renters and lower-income household, regardless of race, were more likely to report housing and economic challenges.

This disproportionate impact of the pandemic on households of color and Black households has drastically slowed the journey to housing equity, stalling efforts to close the gaps in credit access, homeownership, home values and mortgage denial rates.

One bright spot, however is the recent adoption of policies by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac allowing rental payments to count towards credit history, which is a step toward helping improve the credit and financial access gap.