EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the seventh in a series of stories about this week's Richland County Community Equity Challenge. Today's topic deals with housing.)

There is a reason the majority of Black residents in Mansfield live in the north end. It's evidence the impact of racism on housing equity goes back more than a century.

As Mansfield became industrialized in the early part of the 20th century, new businesses sprang up, including hotels, restaurants, saloons and entertainment venues.

According to the 2020 Richland County State of the African American Community Report, produced by the North End Community Improvement Collaborative, "it was these service industries and the railroads that provided new employment opportunities to African Americans who were faced with the tyranny of racial discrimination."

According to the report:

"One Mansfield historian described it as “silent segregation” by which Mansfield’s African American residents faced discriminatory employment practices, segregated schools, and housing discrimination.

Racism on housing

"One excellent example of overt racism is an article dated November 1917 from the Cleveland Advocate in which white residents of Mansfield’s north side 'suggested that the city planning commission set aside a section of the city for the Colored folks to live and that they be prevented from living elsewhere in the city.'"

Issues with systemic racism in is is why the Richland County Task Force on Racism chose housing as one of its key areas of focus, including Day 7 of the Richland County Community Equity Challenge.

The  week-long effort is aimed at creating dedicated time and space to build more effective social justice habits, particularly those dealing with issues of race, power, privilege and leadership.

The eight-day effort, which runs through Monday, allows  participants to receive daily emails or text messages with links to videos, podcasts and/or reading assignments.

According to organizers, "reading the history of housing disparity is reminder of how far we have come yet how far we have to go. The best way to change these statistics is to learn from the past and make meaningful strides now to impact the future."

Like many communities across the country, Mansfield and Richland County have a history of "redlining," a policy that allowed banks to refuse to insure mortgages in and near African American neighborhoods.

The article above from the Cleveland Advocate clearly shows the city planning commission was encouraged by residents to start establishing where Black residents could and could not live. 

"Redlining" was actually codified by the federal government as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal through the Federal Housing Administration.

According to Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law, the FHA furthered the segregation efforts by refusing to insure mortgages in and near African American neighborhoods — "redlining."

"At the same time, the FHA was subsidizing builders who were mass-producing entire subdivisions for whites — with the requirement that none of the homes be sold to African-Americans," challenge organizers said.

"Exactly as explored in other areas of the challenge, education, employment, and wealth are all impacted by redlining and housing. The systems are all linked and systemic issues in one area create systemic issues in the other areas," they said.

The Ohio Fair Housing Law became effective in 1965, prohibiting discrimination in housing because of race, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, or color.

Key provisions in the law made it illegal to refuse to sell, transfer, assign, rent, lease, finance, or otherwise withhold or deny housing from any person.

"However, we still see the effects and inequities of redlining today. Where a person lives impacts all areas of their life from schools, to health outcomes, to wealth, to how much police are present in the neighborhoods," organizers said.

According to the NECIC report,  homeownership among Black residents is just 3.8 percent while White residents have a homeownership rate of 94.3 percent.

"We would expect the racial composition of homeowners and renters to mirror the racial composition of the entire county. That is, we would expect close to 86.8 percent of owner-occupied housing units to have White householders and close to 7.8 percent of them to have Black householders," challenge organizers said.

"However, we see there are disproportionately fewer Black households who own their homes and disproportionately more who rent. Similarly, we see that there are disproportionately more White households who own their homes and fewer who rent," they said.

The benefits of home ownership were outlined by Habitat for Humanity.

• Children of homeowners are significantly more likely to stay in school until age 17 than those of renters, especially in low-income households.

• An affordable home can prevent stunted growth and unnecessary hospitalizations.

• Compared to children in renting families, children in home-owning families have fewer behavioral problems, higher educational attainment, and greater future earnings, all else being equal.

• Children of homeowners are twice as likely to acquire some post-secondary education.

• The graduation rate for children of homeowners is 19 percent higher than that of children of renters.

• Homeownership status significantly reduced a household’s incidence of crime.

Chris Hiner, home lending director for Park National Bank in Mansfield, said equitable housing efforts mesh with other areas. 

"An affordable, quality place to call home is a basic necessity that impacts much more than just housing and ties in with other sectors such as employment, education, generational wealth and healthcare," said Hiner, who helps lead the task force work group on housing.

He said PNB is continuing to focus on outreach and financial education to assist those wanting to buy a home.

"Our goal is to be a trusted advisor and move the needle so future statistics are representative of our community. It is never too early or too late to think of owning a home," Hiner said.

He said local residents of all races and ethnicities have plenty of opportunities to own homes.

"The stigma that you have to have a 20 percent down payment is a myth. There are many options for those with less than even 10 percent down. There are year-round grant opportunities to help with down payment assistance," Hiner said.

Equity challenge organizers said many things need to happen in  order to start increasing home ownership among African Americans in Richland County, including increasing educational attainment among Black residents, especially among men.

"Additionally, more Black men need to participate in the labor force in order to earn the significant income required to qualify for a home loan. Both NECIC and the employment work group (of the task force on racism) are working towards increasing labor force participation of Black men, by helping them overcome the various barriers that exist for them," organizers said.

The task force housing work group is also now offering home buyer information sessions in partnership with NECIC.

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"