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South Carolina leads the U.S. in Black homeownership, but there are still a few gaps to close

Charleston and Columbia lead U.S. cities in rates of Black homeownership. Greenville's rate has seen the biggest jump since 2016.
Scott Morgan
South Carolina Public Radio
Charleston and Columbia lead U.S. cities in rates of Black homeownership. Greenville's rate has seen the biggest jump since 2016.

In 2021, South Carolina led the U.S. in rates of homeownership among African-Americans, according to a report released Wednesday by ApartmentList.

The Palmetto State’s 54.8 percent Black homeownership rate edged out Delaware and Mississippi, where rates were also above 53 percent – all well above the national average of 43 percent in 2021.

“That’s amazing to me,” says Stephanie Haselrig, a real estate agent with Fathom Realty, based in Rock Hill. She attributes the state’s solid numbers for African-American ownership to there being more Black real estate agents than there were a few years ago, as well as to South Carolina’s low cost of living and low taxes – which she acknowledges are both changing, especially in cities like Rock Hill that are growing fast with residents from other states. She also attributes the growth to people being able to work remotely. And she says more African-Americans are discussing homeownership than ever.

“We’re talking more in our community,” she says. “People are hearing about friends buying and saying, ‘Let me look into that.’”

Charleston and Columbia were the top city-level markets for African-American homeowners in the U.S. – 58 and 55 percent, respectively. Greenville’s rate of 48 percent Black homeownership in 2021 was the most improved in the state since 2016, up by nearly 10 percent. That jump and a similar jump in Atlanta were the largest bumps in Black homeownership in the U.S. over those five years.

The uptick in Black homeownership mirrors a national trend in nearly all of the 63 metro areas ApartmentList measured between 2016 and 2021. Homeownership among African-Americans is making a slow but steady comeback after taking a sharp dip during the Great Recession. The national numbers from 2021 show Black ownership has recovered to pre-crash levels, which were about the same as the numbers from 1980; but they are still shy of the peak of Black homeownership, which occurred around the beginning of the century.

In 2016, the national average for Black homeownership was almost 41 percent and, according to the report, the number of Black owners increased by 750,000 between 2016 and 2021. Black home values, in total, also jumped by $700 million in that time.

There are, however, some caveats. While ownership rates for African-Americans of the Baby Boomer generation and older were solidly above 60 percent by 2021, rates for Gen-X owners barely cracked 50 percent. Meanwhile, Black Millennials younger than 35 have not yet hit 30 percent homeownership.

The report states: “At age 30, just 17 percent of Black millennials owned homes, roughly 10 percentage points lower than the homeownership rates of earlier generations when they were the same age.”

Black homeownership is also wildly different in different regions of the country. The South leads the U.S., whereas the Northeast and Midwest generally show much lower rates of Black ownership – Delaware and Maryland being notable exceptions. Wisconsin reported the lowest rate of Black homeownership in the U.S. 2021, with 28.6 percent.

Another caveat is the continuing gap between Black and white ownership nationally. According to the St. Louis Fed, the white homeownership rate in the U.S. in 2021 averaged nearly 74 percent.

In South Carolina, in 2019, the white homeownership rate was almost 79 percent – a full 26 points above Black homeownership rates at the time, according to the data news website Stacker.

African-Americans also have the lowest rates of homeownership of all ethnic groups. The Hispanic homeownership rate peaked nationally in 2020, at 50 percent, but dipped below 48 percent by the following year, according to the St. Louis Fed. It has since recovered by a point.

According to the U.S. Census, the highest-to-lowest rates of homeownership by ethnicity in 2021 were: White, Asian/Pacific Islander/Native American/Alaskan, Hispanic, and Black.

Haselrig says “lack of knowledge” about owning a home is maybe the biggest obstacle to Black ownership.

“There are a lot of myths,” she says. “A lot of people have been sold this myth that they can’t afford [to buy]; a lot of people still think you need to put 20 percent down.”

She also says there is fear among some would-be Black buyers of trying to pursue home loans when they have a history of poor credit. She says there are programs that can counsel financially distressed renters to become buyer-ready, the problem is just that many of those programs are unknown in the community or are hard to navigate if you do find them.

Still, she’s encouraged by South Carolina’s place at the top of the nation’s Black homeownership list, and encouraged that more African-Americans are looking into the idea of ownership.

“African-Americans are starting to see the value of homeownership,” she says, “as an opportunity to build wealth and as an opportunity to pass something on to their children.”

Scott Morgan is the Upstate multimedia reporter for South Carolina Public Radio, based in Rock Hill. He cut his teeth as a newspaper reporter and editor in New Jersey before finding a home in public radio in Texas. Scott joined South Carolina Public Radio in March of 2019. His work has appeared in numerous national and regional publications as well as on NPR and MSNBC. He's won numerous state, regional, and national awards for his work including a national Edward R. Murrow.