Housing crash hit minority communities hardest, study shows

WASHINGTON Thu Jan 16, 2014 11:26am EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The rise and fall of U.S. home values during the housing bubble and bust disproportionately affected black and Hispanic homeowners, real estate website Zillow said in a study released on Thursday.

Hispanic communities were hit hardest by the collapse of the real estate market, with home values in those neighborhoods falling an average of 46 percent from the height of the bubble to the bottom.

Communities where blacks were the predominant group saw values drop 32 percent during the same period.

In contrast, white and Asian communities saw drops of 24 percent and 20 percent respectively.

The research shows that "minority home buyers are encountering difficulties that often aren't shared by white home buyers," said Stan Humphries, Zillow chief economist.

U.S. home prices dropped more than 30 percent from their mid-2006 peak to the bottom in 2012. Fast-rising property values have helped solidify the sector's recovery.

"Even after they achieve the dream, they have been less likely to see a similar return on their investment," Humphries said of black and Hispanic communities.

While home values in Hispanic communities suffered a bigger setback than prices in other groups, they have been relatively faster to recover. Home values in those communities have increased about 25 percent from the bottom over the past two years, compared with a 13 percent rebound in black communities, the study found.

The research, done with the National Urban League, was mainly based on data collected by the government from lenders under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. Zillow also used their own home price index and information obtained from an Ipsos survey.

The study shows that blacks and Hispanics are less likely to apply for a mortgage to make a home purchase in the first place, and much less likely to be approved for one than whites and Asians.

While blacks make up 12 percent of the U.S. population, they filed only 6 percent of all mortgage purchase applications in 2012. Hispanics account for 17 percent of the population, and filed 9 percent of the applications in the same year. Whites, representing 63 percent of the population, filed almost 65 percent of applications.

Zillow said that Hispanics and blacks were also more likely to apply for Federal Housing Administration loans than for conventional loans. More than half of black applicants, about 57 percent, and 60 percent of Hispanic applicants applied for an FHA loan.

In contrast, less than one-third of white applicants applied for an FHA loan.

During the housing bust, homeowners not only lost an enormous amount of wealth invested in their properties, but millions lost their home to foreclosure.

The homeownership rate in 2011 among black communities is the lowest, according to Zillow, at 47 percent - while it is about 51 percent for Hispanics, 74 percent for whites, and 61 percent for Asian groups.

(Reporting by Margaret Chadbourn; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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