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Archive for Sunday, October 13, 1991

FULFILLING THE AMERICAN DREAM ELUDES MINORITIES, FIGURES SHOW

October 13, 1991

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Few goals exemplify fulfillment of the American dream more than home ownership.

But according to federal census figures, Lawrence's minorities, like those throughout the country, are still having trouble tapping into that dream.

Figures from the 1990 U.S. Census show that among the city's population age 25 and over, minorities own less and rent more than their representative share of the city's homes.

Those who have studied the economic situation of local minorities say laws are in place to prevent blatant discrimination practices. But minorities still are fighting to get their share of the good jobs the ones that can help them afford their own home.

"When you start out with a playing field that's not level, it doesn't level out overnight," Ron Hurst, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, said.

HERE'S A breakdown of home ownership in Lawrence by different groups:

Whites, who make up 88.3 percent of the city's age 25 and over population, own 93.5 percent, or 8,758, of the total 9,363 owner-occupied homes in the city.

Blacks, who make up 4.6 percent of the 25 and over population, own 3.4 percent, or 322 homes.

American Indians, Eskimos or Aleutians, who make up 2.2 percent of the local age 25 and over population, own 1.14 percent, or 107 homes.

Asians or Pacific Islander, who make up 3.9 percent of the local age 25 and over population, own 1.21 percent, or 114 homes.

Other races, which make up 1 percent of the age 25 and over population, own 0.62 percent, of 62 homes.

Lawrence residents of Hispanic origin, who make up 3 percent of the age 25 and above population, own 1.6 percent, or 157 homes.

IN TERMS of the average value of those owner-occupied homes, homes owned by Asians or Pacific Islanders topped the chart, with an average value of $97,360.

Next in average value were homes owned by whites, $80,763; Hispanic origin, $73,264; other races, $63,952; American Indian, Eskimo or Aleutian, $61,636; and blacks, $57,728.

Although census income figures are not available, the disparity of the figures on home ownership is an indication of the economic situation of minorities, the NAACP's Hurst says.

"When people are underemployed or unemployed, it limits their abilities to obtain homes or financing for those homes," he said. "I think until there are skill enhancement programs put in place, this problem can't be resolved."

Hurst said a two-pronged approach is necessary.

"YOU HAVE to have the skilled work force in order to be competitive to attract new industry. And there has to be a mechanism put in place where you have to go for more than just research-type opportunities or jobs for Lawrence," he said.

Hurst said that although there are some housing programs in the community, more needs to be done to assist low-income minority families in Lawrence and the surrounding areas.

He said he also thinks blacks are not given their fair chance at getting jobs in the community.

"I think there's probably some hiring practices that need to be corrected," Hurst said. "Until that is done, African-Americans will still be limited in what they can purchase as far as homes."

The census figures that break down rental housing by race show that minorities also rent more than their representative share of the homes.

HERE'S A breakdown of who was renting at the time of the 1990 census:

Whites were renting 84.9 percent, or 10,961 of the city's 12,898 rental units.

Blacks were renting 5.9 percent, or 761, of the units.

American Indians, Eskimos, or Aleutians were renting 301, or 2.3 percent of the units.

Asians or Pacific Islanders were renting 5.4 percent, or 707 of the units.

Other races were renting or 1.3 percent, or 168, of the units.

Those who consider themselves of Hispanic origin were renting 3.31 percent, or 428 units.

BARBARA HUPPEE, executive director of the Lawrence Housing Authority, said the economic plight of minorities is reflected in her own racial breakdown of who is living in the city's public housing and federally subsidized housing.

Huppee's figures show that of the families who live in Edgewood Homes, a public housing complex at 1600 Haskell, 54 percent are white, 34 percent are black, 9 percent are Native American, 2 percent are Hispanic and 1 percent are Asian or Pacific Islanders.

Families living in the city's scattered-site public housing units consist of 46 percent whites, 35 percent blacks, 11 percent Native Americans, 8 percent Hispanics and no Asians or Pacific Islanders, Huppee said.

A LOCAL TASK force that studied the problems of minorities last fall found no discrimination among local mortgage lenders if you qualified for a loan, you received it.

What the task force learned was that blacks and other minorities find it more difficult to get the jobs that help them earn enough to buy a home, said Jo Andersen, a member of the Community Task Force on Racism, Discrimination and Human Diversity.

"It's very difficult for black craftspeople, such as truck drivers, people who do road work and cement work, builders and roofers, to be hired in Lawrence," she said. "They have to go to Topeka or to Kansas City."

She also said the task force found that young, talented black people are hired away from the area.

"The ones who stay, a lot of the jobs available to them are low paying. And this contributes to the disparity in housing," she said. "There's a disparity between the cost of housing and the wages we expect these people to work for."

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