The rise and dramatic fall of King County’s black homeowners

The Boeing Boom elevated the Seattle area’s black homeowners. The tech boom? Just the opposite, as the region’s rate of homeownership ranks among the lowest in the country.

Homeownership — it’s the cornerstone of the American dream.

In recent years, with prices soaring out of reach, that dream seems more like a nightmare to many would-be Seattle homebuyers.

But for black families in King County, it’s old news. The dream of homeownership is one that’s been slipping away for decades.

In 1970, almost half of King County households headed by a black person owned their home, according to census data. The rate of black homeownership here, at 49 percent, was well above the U.S. average of 42 percent.

Since then, black homeownership in King County has been on a steady downward spiral, with just 28 percent of black households in the county owning their home — about 13,000 of the nearly 48,000 total households.

Homeownership for Latinos has also declined sharply since 1970, but has remained relatively stable for whites and Asians.

What’s happened here for black homeowners does not parallel a wider trend. Nationally, 42 percent of black households own their home, the same as in 1970. King County, once well above average for black homeownership, is now far below. While a racial-affordability gap exists in housing markets across the country, it is more extreme here than in most places.

It’s a sign of how the postwar Boeing Boom was, in many ways, more beneficial to Seattle’s black community than the current tech boom, says Ron Sims, former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, who also served as the King County Executive.

“African Americans have not done well in the economy of King County and the Puget Sound, as Boeing has moved jobs elsewhere,” he said.

“I’ll be blunt about it: The tech sector has failed to provide open doors and equal pay to African…

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