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According to the American Society on Aging, 14% of family caregivers — approximately 7.2 million people — identify as Black. Due to decades of discriminatory lending practices and accelerated foreclosures on Black-owned homes by banks and tax authorities, Black families are more likely to rent than own homes. With the rising cost of rent across the country, many families with care relationships may be facing housing insecurity.

Homeless shelters are not equipped to help older adults in poor physical or mental health. Groups like Habitat for Humanity are discussing pathways to homeownership for Black Americans, particularly those on the cusp of becoming "housing insecure," meaning they have missed a mortgage or rent payment or are certain to do so next month.

These programs may create generational wealth, which benefits caregivers, many of whom have had to sacrifice opportunities for homeownership and its subsequent wealth because of their caregiving commitments.

Middle-class renters of all races may benefit from learning about programs that provide rental assistance and equip people with the resources to access homeownership and pass down generational wealth, while continuing to be able to provide care in their homes and communities rather than move older relatives into institutions (the preference of 88% of Americans, according to a nationwide survey by the University of Michigan).

However, many Black family caregivers may find themselves unable to tap into existing resources for homeownership unless they are facing abject poverty. To avoid ending up in such a precarious situation, it is important to understand the contributing factors and potential solutions.

Black women are more likely than their white counterparts to provide unpaid care for an aging or disabled family member, according to research published in the journal Gerontology. Because of caregiving responsibilities, many Black women are forced to leave the workforce, thus sacrificing prime earning years.

Those who remain in the labor market often fall victim to the gender and racial wealth gap, earning just 69 cents for every dollar earned by white men.

Furthering the inequity is the often-gendered value that puts the needs of the family ahead of the desires of individual members. Eldest and only daughters are expected to put personal goals such as savings, retirement and homeownership aside if another family member needs care. This helps explain why 75% of unpaid caregivers are women.

Black and immigrant women are also more likely to be employed outside the house as care workers in facilities for children as well as older adults, for which many are paid poverty-level wages, according to research by the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI).

The fact that these essential workers are not being paid the living wages they deserve for jobs that can be emotionally and physically demanding adds to the inequity of Black family caregivers who are forced by circumstances to take these types of jobs.

Additionally, Black families may find themselves in personal homes where they are unable to make necessary modifications as inhabitants age or become disabled.

Home and community-based services like home modifications or in-home care are also commonly out of reach for many older adults and their families because they are not paid for by Medicare and many middle-class families are not eligible for the Medicaid waivers through which most such programs are accessed.

Without access to generational wealth, middle-class Black women caregivers are at risk of living on the financial bubble, where they do not have the funds needed to buy a home but make too much to qualify for most government-funded housing programs. Whether because they have poor credit or are not eligible for federal grants, Black caregivers are struggling to attain the elusive American dream.

Overall homeownership by Black Americans over 65 declined from nearly 70% in 2005 to 53.6% in 2019, Odette Williamson of the National Consumer Law Center said in a 2023 presentation to the Columbia Aging Center.

Black caregivers who expect to inherit a relative's home may receive devastating news if the relative died before transferring the property deed to the caregiver or preparing a will instructing the executor to do so.

The result is a situation called "heirs' property" or "tangled title," which means a deceased person's name is on the title to property occupied by someone else. Property cannot easily be sold or transferred with a tangled title; it is one of the leading barriers to homeownership among Black adults.

In a 2023 interview, Rodney Harrell, who leads housing initiatives for the AARP, described the greatest obstacle to housing for the Black middle class: "The fact that many of the homes we have don't meet the needs over time," he said. "You see this every time there's a recession or housing crisis. Majority African American neighborhoods take a harder hit."

Accommodations like accessory dwelling units (ADUs) — such as an attached apartment or an in-law suite — are often not options in predominantly Black communities because of local zoning laws. The American Planning Association tracks the legacy of limiting housing options in historically Black communities through zoning barriers, Harrell says. At the same time, groups such as AARP are exploring other affordable housing options, like duplexes and triplexes.