Kamala Harris Calls for $100 Billion to Close Racial Homeownership Gap

Senator Kamala Harris of California on Saturday announced a plan aimed at reducing the racial gap in homeownership, including $100 billion to help black families and individuals buy homes in historically redlined communities.

Speaking to the Essence Festival in New Orleans — the annual music and culture festival sponsored by Essence magazine, which caters to black women — Ms. Harris outlined the housing proposal, designed to allow people of color to buy homes in places where they had been systematically denied loans.

Several other presidential candidates were scheduled to appear at the festival Saturday as well.

[We tracked down the 2020 Democrats and asked them the same set of questions. Watch them answer.]

The money would help cover down payments and closing costs for up to four million families or individuals, providing a maximum of $25,000 each.

Ms. Harris is also calling for stronger laws against housing discrimination; for more funding for financial literacy education; and for major changes in the calculation of credit scores, which lenders use to determine interest rates and eligibility for loans.

Currently, credit scores are based on payment history for things like credit cards, auto loans and mortgages, which many people of color don’t have. Ms. Harris’s plan would require credit reporting agencies to include rent, phone bill and utility payments in their calculations as well.

Her campaign projected that eliminating the homeownership gap would increase the median wealth of black households by about $32,000, and that of Latino households by about $29,000. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has announced a similar plan.

“Join me as we right what is wrong and write the next chapter of history in our country,” Ms. Harris said. “The fight of black women has always been fueled and grounded in faith and in the belief of what is possible.”

Ms. Harris’s speech — and a question-and-answer session afterward with the Rev. Al Sharpton and Michelle Ebanks, the chief executive of Essence Communications — also touched on health care, student loans and abortion.

She said that if elected, she would seek to require the Justice Department to review the constitutionality of any abortion law passed by a state “that has a history of interfering with a woman’s access to choice” — a process, known as preclearance, that the Voting Rights Act required for voting-related laws until the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder ruling in 2013.

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ms. Warren were scheduled to speak at the Essence Festival later in the day, as was former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas. Two lower-polling presidential candidates — Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York — gave brief addresses in the morning.

This article will be updated as more candidates speak.


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