“It’s pretty well-established that homeownership is the way that people actually build wealth and intergenerational wealth.” – Kathleen Hosfeld
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Since at least World War II, homeownership has been one of the main paths to accumulating assets in the United States. Redlining and other lending rules welcomed white families onto this path, but excluded families of color from the mortgages and neighborhoods that allowed them to build wealth. The resulting patterns of inequality in ownership persist: the net worth of the average US homeowner is now $195,400—36 times the average renter’s $5,400 net worth.

Neighborhoods may no longer be carved up by red lines dictating who can live where, but policies such as the mortgage interest tax deduction and single-family zoning keep low-income people and people of color from building wealth through ownership. This is especially true in expensive cities such as Cascadia’s big three: Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, BC. In Seattle, the median home price recently topped $700,000. “It’s pretty well-established that homeownership is the way that people actually build wealth and intergenerational wealth,” Homestead Community Land Trust executive director Kathleen Hosfeld says.

  • Hosfeld’s organization helps working-class families build wealth through community land trusts—an ownership model in which a nonprofit organization, aided by public and philanthropic funds, buys land and builds homes, then sells the homes below market rate to people with modest incomes. The homebuyers purchase the building, but lease the land beneath it from Homestead. They agree that the price of the house can only rise 1.5 percent a year. Community land trust buyers will never reap the kind of windfalls other homeowners may receive, but they are at least on the path to asset accumulation. By keeping prices low, the model “puts homeownership within reach for people who otherwise would never be able to own a home,” Hosfeld says.

    Hosfeld, along with Sven Gatchev of Mercy Corps Northwest, Jaebediah Gardner of Onpoint Real Estate, and Sam Farrazaino of Equinox Studios, will discuss land trusts and other innovative avenues for building wealth—including affordable artist studios that pay tenant dividends, and a community ownership project in Portland that gives low-income residents an ownership stake in a commercial building—at “Own It: Prevent Displacement, Build Wealth,” Capitol Hill Housing’s (CHH) annual community forum. CHH spokesman Ashwin Warrior says that all the panelists “offer innovative models for accessing ownership” at a time when that goal is elusive. The forum is on Thursday, May 25, at 5:30 pm at the Summit, 420 East Pike St, in Seattle.

    Event: “Own It: Prevent Displacement, Build Wealth

    • Speakers: Jaebadiah Gardner, Onpoint Real Estate; Sven Gatchev, Mercy Corps Northwest; Sam Farrazaino, Equinox Studios; Kathleen Hosfeld, Homestead Community Land Trust
    • Where: The Summit—420 East Pike Street, Seattle, WA (map)
    • When: Thursday, May 25, 2017, 5:30 PM
    • Sponsor: Capitol Hill Housing
    • The event is free and open to the public. RSVP here.

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