Kamala Harris unveils $100B plan to invest in black homeownership

Sen. Kamala Harris, a 2020 presidential candidate, released on Saturday a $100 billion proposal to invest in black homeownership, a plan intended to help close the racial wealth gap in the U.S.

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The California Democrat said that as part of the plan, $100 billion would provide down payment and closing cost assistance of up to $25,000 to roughly 4 million homebuyers who rent or live in historically redlined communities. (Redlining refers to the practice of cutting certain neighborhoods, and potential homebuyers, off from mortgage lending opportunities -- often discriminating against predominantly black neighborhoods).

Harris’ housing program would come in the form of grants distributed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Families would not be able to have an annual income higher than $100,000, or $125,000 in high-cost areas. The maximum home cost to qualify for the grant is capped at $300,000.

“By taking these steps we can shrink the wealth gap between black and white households by at least one third,” Harris said in a speech in New Orleans, at the 25th anniversary Essence Fest. “But we cannot bridge the racial wealth gap just by addressing historical inequities, although we must do that, we also have to write the next chapter.”

The plan’s release comes after a clash between Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden, another presidential candidate, during the first Democratic primary debate last week. Harris criticized Biden for his past opposition to busing and his work, while in the Senate, with segregationist lawmakers.

“I do not believe you are a racist. And I agree with you, when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground,” Harris told Biden during the debate. But she continued: “It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on segregation of race in this country.”

Harris’s standing has surged in polls since the confrontation.