For more than two years, Simons was harassed by her neighbors, who watched her every move while she lived in the house she built on a vacant lot in a predominantly white neighborhood. “While there were several things that impacted their interactions with me,” Simons says, “I think how they interacted with me, regardless of what got us there, was uniquely a matter of race.”
Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) face a road of obstacles on their journey to homeownership, as evidenced by the history of redlining and blockbusting. But beyond these forms of systemic racism during the buying process, BIPOC often faces ongoing discrimination, harassment, and otherness as owners, contributing to continued segregation and inequality. . Simons’ experience as a black woman living in a predominantly white neighborhood reveals that while politics is imperative to democratizing homeownership, individual behavior and culture are the real drivers and inhibitors of home ownership. inclusion.
The search for a house
BIPOC has less wealth than its white counterparts, in part due to centuries of racist policies and practices that have systematically excluded BIPOC from education, health care, housing, and justice in the legal system. Home ownership is a key route to creating wealth in the United States, and primary residences account for 30% of total household wealth in the United States. The gap in homeownership rates is one reason the median net worth of a black family is $17,150, only 10% of that of a white family, which is $171. $000. According to the US Census Bureau, the homeownership rate for white households was 73.8%, much higher than that for black households at 45.1%.
For Simons, owning a home was more than just the biggest purchase of his life; it meant access to intergenerational wealth, an asset that could be passed down to one’s family. She had long dreamed of buying a “forever home” for herself and her son in Hartford, Connecticut. She rented there for many years and wanted to continue living in this community. However, many homes were out of her price range, and even when she found something she could afford, she was often outbid by cash buyers and investors. After two years of looking for a house, a friend who was an entrepreneur recommended that she build her house instead. Frustrated and tired of searching, Simons agreed and began the process of building a two-family home in a nearby community – a decision she relayed would relieve some of the mortgage pressure, making it more affordable.
Harassment, policing and an unwelcoming neighborhood
After a long and stressful financing process, Simons was excited and relieved to begin construction. She reflects on her first encounter with her neighbours: “I remember going out the back door and seeing my neighbor to my right for the first time. He asked me a lot of questions – he seemed so nice. It was probably the last pleasant, civil conversation I had with him, probably in about 2 years. They were horrible. Over the next few months, Simons experienced something akin to nightmarish hazing – reminiscent of scenes from Jordan Peele’s racial horror film, get outit reminded her that she would not be fully accepted and that she would always be watched and watched.
One of the first incidents occurred at the start of the construction phase. Simons received a call from her contractor who informed her that a complaint had been filed against her because the driveway was one inch from her neighbor’s property line. Simons, surprised by the accusation, rechecked the property and measured the driveway: it was two feet from his neighbor’s line. Following this incident, she began to receive fleeting visits from an inspector who she later realized was her neighbor’s friend. Simons was frustrated. Each complaint halted construction, forced the inspector to pass, and further delayed an already lengthy process.