By Chris Nichols | CapRadio | Special to the OBSERVER

Nearly nine of every 10 Black residents are concerned about the cost of housing in the Sacramento region, a level higher than any other racial or ethnic group, according to a survey published this week. 

In partnership with CapRadio, Valley Vision conducted its annual Livability poll, released this week and that takes the pulse of the region’s wellness. It surveyed approximately 3,000 people from six counties: Sacramento, Yolo, El Dorado, Placer, Yuba, and Sutter.

The poll found high levels of concern over housing costs among all racial and ethnic groups, with two of every three people saying they are worried. 

The findings come as the median price of a home in Sacramento hit $482,000 in August, slightly lower than this spring, but still an increase of about $150,000 compared to 2019, according to the real estate website Redfin. 

Meanwhile, rents have also shot up dramatically, with the median rent reaching $2,748 in August, up 8.1% compared to the same time a year before. 

Policy experts said they’re not surprised that Black residents are the most worried about housing costs, given the harm caused by institutional racism and discriminatory practices, some of which continue today.

“Historically, the Black community has really experienced living under a housing crisis for generations,” said Kendra Lewis, executive director of the Sacramento Housing Alliance, which promotes affordable housing. “It’s redlining, it’s rent distcrimination, it’s predatory lending with high interest loans.” 

Flojaune Cofer, senior director of policy at the Davis-based Public Health Advocates, agreed. 

“Given the history of the United States,” Cofer said, “from the period of enslavement to Jim Crow to ongoing policy implications that continue even after overtly racist policies are repealed, it’s unsurprising that our Black population is struggling more so and is concerned more so about an issue that it affecting the entire region.” 

The Valley Vision poll, undertaken in partnership with Sacramento State’s Institute for Social Research, asked respondents to choose four issues facing the Sacramento region they are most concerned about, among 10 options. The choices included the cost of housing, the cost of health care, low wages relative to the cost of living, lack of opportunity, homelessness, environmental threats such as wildfire and drought, division and distrust between people of different political parties, traffic congestion, crime and quality of education. 

The top concern, when factoring in responses from all people surveyed regardless of race or ethnicity, was homelessness at 68.8%, followed by the cost of housing at 68%.

At 86%, the share of Black respondents who listed housing costs as a concern was higher than the overall level and any other individual group, the poll found. 

Among other racial and ethnic groups, 74.5% of Asian American and Pacific Islanders, 74% of Latinos and 62.7% of White respondents listed the cost of housing as a concern. 

Black residents more likely to experience challenges paying for housing

In a related finding, Black residents were about three times as likely to say they cannot currently afford their rent or mortgage compared with all survey respondents and much higher than any other race or ethnicity.

When asked “How well are you currently able to afford rent or mortgage?” 22% of Black residents listed I “cannot afford” it, and 42.4% marked “I can barely afford.” 

By contrast, only 7.2% of all survey-takers listed “I cannot afford,” 33.8% marked “I can barely afford” and 59% said “I can comfortably afford.” 

Lewis of the Sacramento Housing Alliance said the best way to address the concerns highlighted in the survey is to build more affordable housing. She added that pushback from organized neighborhood groups, sometimes referred to as NIMBYs for their “Not In My Backyard” stance on development, is among the most powerful forces stopping affordable housing today. 

“We have to dig really deep,” Lewis said. “I hear at the meetings [on affordable housing], ‘Oh, we need more parking spaces.’ I hear excuses. ‘Let’s just leave this a park. Let’s just keep this empty.’ And at the end of the day, I think we have to really highlight that.”  

Cofer of Public Health Advocates said government must make targeted investments in communities harmed by discrimination such as redlining. 

Redlining is a discriminatory practice in which banks denied loans and insurance providers restricted services to neighborhoods based on the Federal Housing Authority’s neighborhood rating system, which used green, blue, yellow and red markings. Green-lined communities were largely White while redlined neighborhoods were predominantly Black or other people of color.

“Red was the worst,” Cofer said. “Neighborhoods were given these categories based entirely on who lived in the community and who they wanted to live in communities.”

Black families, as a result, had low levels of homeownership and their neighborhoods saw few investments of resources. Cofer said it is time for governments “to right historic wrongs” by making greater investments in Black neighborhoods. 

“If you have communities where people have not been historically able to buy a home,” Cofer said, “then we need to concentrate our efforts for homeownership in those communities and put resources there. They can’t be blanket [investments] because if you give everybody access to it, you’re going to keep seeing the same patterns that we’ve seen before.” Visit here for more CapRadio coverage of The Livability Poll.