Kamala Harris, calling on the nation to “deal with the racial wealth gap,” on Saturday proposed a $100 billion federal program to help black people buy homes.
The California senator said the plan, which would provide down payment and closing cost assistance of up to $25,000 to people renting or living in historically red-lined communities, would help some 4 million home-buyers.
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The plan’s release comes as Harris surges in Democratic presidential primary polls following a debate last week in which she chastised former Vice President Joe Biden for his past opposition to busing and former associations with segregationist senators. The controversy has continued in recent days, with Biden defending his record.
Black voters are a critical constituency in the Democratic primary, especially in the South.
Harris, speaking at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, said her program would “put homeownership within the reach” of millions of families.
“A typical black family has just $10 of wealth for every $100 held by a white family,” she said. “So we must right that wrong and, after generations of discrimination, give black families a real shot at homeownership — historically one of the most powerful drivers of wealth in our country.”
Harris’ housing program would come in the form of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grants limited to families with incomes up to $100,000, or $125,000 in high-cost areas.
Democrats concerned about income and racial inequality in the United States have long pointed to the lasting effects of red-lining — and persistent gaps in the rates of black and white homeownership, a traditional means of building wealth.
Harris also pledged to work to expand HUD’s fair housing program, strengthen anti-discrimination lending laws and amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act to require that credit scores include rent, phone and utility payments.