In Baltimore, the median home price was around $108,000 at the close of September—a bargain compared to nearby cities such as Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Virginia, where median values were closer to $500,000.
That’s potentially good news for a city that’s badly in need of a change. Baltimore is a prime illustration of a city wracked by poverty, disinvestment, and the issues that intertwine themselves with those circumstances, such as violence and tense police-resident relationships.
Relatively affordable housing, and the increased homeownership rates that come with it, could help reverse these trends. Homeownership is an important tool for local economies: It spurs investment in neighborhoods and surrounding areas, helps to rebuild communities, raises nearby home values, and revitalizes areas that are plagued with blight, poor schools, and a lack of retail outlets. Affordable housing is hard to come by in many cities around the country, but Baltimore has plenty of it.
But the benefits of homeownership will only be shared equally if the prerequisites for owning a home are equal for everyone. Unfortunately, they’re not.
A new report from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition shows the distribution of home loans among Baltimoreans is decidedly uneven: Of the 2,653 mortgage applications submitted by white applicants in 2013, 75 percent were approved. Of the 1,304 submitted by black applicants, 61 percent were approved.