Measures sought to boost homeownership for blacks

Leaders of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers on Monday called on their members to continue to push for mortgage reform that enables more African-Americans to buy homes and stops deceptive loan practices that contributed to a disproportionate number of minorities losing their homes to foreclosure.

"Homeownership is more than just a financial return," said Charles McMillan, former president of the National Association of Realtors and a Dallas-Fort Worth real estate broker. "We need policies that help support and encourage that."

McMillan was the keynote speaker at the National Association of Real Estate Brokers' 63rd annual convention at the Renaissance Worthington Hotel in downtown Fort Worth.

More than 450 people are attending this week's gathering sponsored by the association, which was founded in 1947 to advance the housing interests of African-Americans and today bills itself as an organization for minority real estate professionals.

"The homeownership rate of African-Americans in the last two years has dropped to about 45 percent, and that could drop to less than 30 percent if we don't do something," said association President Vincent Wimbish, president of Fort Worth-based Wimbish Appraisal Service.

"Real solutions require the full involvement of policymakers, the financial sector, real estate professionals, housing counselors and advocates. We've put out the call."

African-Americans and other minorities bore a greater share of financial damage in the recession, yet they have not received the attention needed to restore their finances and get back into their homes, the association said in a position paper issued Monday.

"The housing crisis is the direct result of a total and complete failure of the public, private and advocacy sectors to follow their citizen-protection mandates," the group said. "Reports indicate that one out of every 20 African-American homeowners are likely to lose their homes to foreclosure."

Keith Corbett, an executive vice president with Self-Help Inc. and its affiliate, the Center for Responsible Lending, said that blacks have not kept pace with whites when it comes to buying homes and that the situation has been worsened by the high number of foreclosures.

"Something extremely different has to be done," Corbett said. "These people should have the opportunity to come back in the market."

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727