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Axios' Aja Whitaker-Moore (L) and former Sec. Julián Castro (R). Photo courtesy of Axios Events

Homeownership disparity is one of the root causes of wealth gaps between white people and people of color in America, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro said at an Axios Event aired Tuesday.

Why it matters: The homeownership gap between Black and white Americans is worse today than when race-based housing laws and policies were in effect decades ago. The Census Bureau reports that 42% of Black Americans and 61% of Hispanic Americans own a home — but for whites, it's 72%.

  • Non-white Americans have a harder time financing a home, pay higher interest rates on home loans and are the primary targets of predatory lenders.

What they're saying: "Well, to me, homeownership is so important because for most Americans, that makes up the bulk of their wealth. And that's especially true for Black Americans and people of color..." Castro said.

  • "And when you compare Black wealth and white wealth or Latino wealth and white wealth in this country, I mean, there's no comparison. But homeownership is one way that you can help to close that gap and provide more stability for a family."
  • He also said that the U.S. needs to deal with the rental affordability crisis as well, which disproportionally impacts people of color.

Between the lines: Jonathan Reckford, CEO for Habitat for Humanity International, also said at the Axios Event that supply is a major barrier to affordable housing, including for people of color.

  • "We need way more housing that's affordable for low and moderate-income families. And we had a housing crisis before the pandemic and it's only been exacerbated by COVID," Reckford said.

What to watch: Castro, who served in the Obama administration, says he believes President-elect Biden's HUD nomination and plans for housing as a step in the right direction.

  • "Well, I was happy to see the nomination of Rep. Marcia Fudge to become secretary of HUD... I think she'll be an effective leader there," Castro said.
  • "President-elect Biden has put forward a $640B plan over 10 years to make big investments. That includes trying to make sure that everybody has fair housing opportunity right away," he added.

Go deeper: Race and housing in America

Watch the full event here.

Go deeper

Sen. Tina Smith: Access to banking is a civil rights issue

Photo: Axios screenshot

Equal access to banking and financial services should be protected under the Civil Rights Act, Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said on Thursday in an Axios virtual event.

Why it matters: People of color, particularly Black people, risk being racially profiled in visits to banks, yet the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not identify financial institutions as businesses that must not treat black customers differently. "That loophole makes it hard for victims of racial profiling to win in court," a New York Times investigation found.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Reports: Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" and were due to travel to another destination when the gang struck in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

5 hours ago - World

Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne's stay-at-home orders will end five days earlier than planned, officials in Australia's second-biggest city announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The capital of the state of Victoria has had six lockdowns totaling 262 days since March last year. That means Melbourne spent longer under lockdown than "any other city in the world" during the pandemic, Reuters notes.