Economic Security: Wounded but Not Defeated
Last week, the Washington Post published “Dashed Dreams,” a three-part series on the loss of wealth in Prince George’s County following the nationwide recession of 2007-2009. While many white families are on the path to recovery, African American families continue to struggle, with one in seven African American homeowners owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Even as late as 2013, Black families were nearly three times as likely to have negative equity in their homes as whites.
In communities such as Fairwood in Bowie, MD, the effect of the housing crisis has been devastating: over half of Fairwood’s new home loans went into default. West African immigrants, a minority larger in Prince George’s County than any other part of the country, were hit particularly hard: nearly one-third of all foreclosures in Fairwood were owned by immigrant families. Many families who were able to remain in their homes did so by taking out second or third mortgages, or by receiving assistance from family members, nonprofits, or social programs. Others were forced to move, leaving their possessions behind in the street.
The high rate of foreclosure in African American communities speaks to a long history of structural racism and segregation. Homes in majority Black neighborhoods are valued less than similarly sized homes in white neighborhoods. Affluent black families received subprime loans twice as often as other families of equal wealth. And the Black middle class, with its roots in Prince George’s County, holds only one-eighth of the wealth held by whites.
As housing values begin to rebound, Fairwood and other communities like it are getting stronger every day. However, we have an opportunity to strengthen our safety nets by empowering the nonprofit sector through philanthropy. Consider donating to the Prince George’s Neighbor to Neighbor Fund to support safety net services for Prince George’s County residents, or share your perspective to help The Community Foundation advocate for the needs of our community. Together, we can continue to rebuild and support our neighbors into the future.
By Elyse Nelson
Program and Donor Associate, The Community Foundation in Prince George’s County