A new report by the Wisconsin Realtors Association (WRA) documented how the Great Recession most reduced home ownership by African-American and Hispanic families.

The report, “Falling Behind,” says the statewide failure to add single- and multi-family homes hits low- and middle-income workers needed to keep the state’s economy growing the hardest.

It’s a dangerous trend, the report warned:

“We are not building enough housing to keep up with demand for our growing workforce. Our existing housing stock is aging, and construction prices and housing costs are rising faster than inflation and incomes.

“Housing costs and rents are rising faster than incomes, too. Compared to our neighboring states, we have the highest rate of extreme rental cost burden for lower-income families and the second highest rate of extreme cost burden for lower-income homeowning individuals and families.

One example: In 51 of the state’s 72 counties, middle-class residents either cannot afford or can “barely afford” average local rents.

The report also included county-by-county totals on housing “underproduction” – defined as the gap between growth in households and growth in housing units — between 2006 and 2017.

Jefferson County had a growth in households of 3,469 units over that period, but only added 2,41 housing units – giving the county a housing “underproduction” or deficit of 1,228 units, according to Falling Behind.

But Dodge County added 1,354 housing units in that same period, which slightly offset the 1,311 growth in households.

But the most startling statistics documented by race who owned Wisconsin homes in 2007 – before the Great Recession — and in 2017.

  • In 2007, 72% of Wisconsin’s white households owned a home; in 2017, that number had fallen to 70% — a drop of only 2%.
  • In 2007, 43% of Wisconsin’s African-American households owned a home; in 2017 that number had fallen to 35% — a drop of 8%.
  • In 2007, 47% of Wisconsin’s Hispanic households owned a home; in 2017 that number had fallen to 40% — a drop of 7%.

Home ownership is still considered a gateway to the middle class. A home is a couple’s single largest investment.

UW-Madison Professor Kurt Paulsen, who wrote the report, said in a WisconsinEye interview that Wisconsin has the sixth biggest gap between home ownership by white and African-American households in the nation.

The new gap – white Wisconsin households twice as likely to own a home as African-American households – “shouldn’t surprise anyone who researches housing for a living,” Paulsen said.

Nationally, about 45% of African-American households own their home, Paulsen noted.

Steven Walters is a senior producer for the nonprofit public affairs channel WisconsinEye. Contact him at stevenscotwalters@gmail.com

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