Representative Maxine Waters recently introduced the Downpayment Toward Equity Act of 2023, intended to help disadvantaged groups afford their first home. The bill would provide financial assistance for down payments, closing costs, and the costs to reduce interest rates for first-generation homebuyers who have not bought a home within the past three years. This mainly affects Black and Latine communities and could benefit up to around 5 million prospective homebuyers. However, while probably good-intentioned, this effort is not without its flaws.
We’re currently coming out of a historic peak in home prices. Prices have started to fall now, but they’re not going to suddenly bottom out overnight. It’s going to take a while for home values to fall. Pushing homeownership aid now is not the right time, for anyone, even if it’s directed at helping disadvantaged groups. And the last time minorities experienced a surge in homeownership turned out terrible for them in the end, albeit under different circumstances. In that case, it was predatory subprime lending that left minorities on the hook for massive mortgages with negative equity after the subsequent economic collapse. Of course, it’s doubtful that Waters’ intentions are predatory, but her plan could perhaps be better timed around the state of the economy.