Challenging Our ‘One of the Best Places to Live’ Status

madison map with pin head

Recently, U.S. News highlighted Madison as the number 16 best place to live in the United States. That is fantastic. However, the article should be taken at face value. Madison often gets put on these lists. We can celebrate this AND we need to question what metrics are being used to get us on this list. Additionally, if it is based on responses from people being interviewed, who are they interviewing?

This specific list considers metro population, median house prices, average income, and unemployment rates to establish the best places to live.  These metrics do not necessarily represent a large portion of the people living in and around Madison who may not feel that it is a great place to live. It is our responsibility to work towards creating a space where everyone can say they are thriving. To do this, we must be critical of aspects such as transportation, access to health care, access to healthy food, jobs that pay the bills, and of course, creating the space so more people have the ability to purchase a home. 

As a real estate company, we pride ourselves in not just selling homes in our community, but actually taking up space and caring for our community. To do that, we cannot be naive to the great disparity between those who are able to buy and those who are not. 2019 statistics show that the racial disparity between white and Black homeowners is significant. 64% of homeowners in Dane County are white families while only 14% of homeowners are Black. 

Real Estate is where the majority of families accumulate wealth and as long as the homeownership is low for Black and Brown families we will continue to see an increase in the wealth gap. 

In 2019, the median white household held $188,200 in wealth which is 7.8 times that of the typical black household of $24,100 (Survey of Consumer Finances – Black White Wealth Gap). 

We want everyone to have the opportunity to create wealth through homeownership and that is the reason we are so involved in the OWN IT: Building Black Wealth initiative. 

Own It: Building Black Wealth is a two-part initiative designed to address and work towards eliminating substantial barriers to wealth and homeownership for Black families in the Greater Madison area. The program does so by providing two key elements: an educational program and access to down payment funds. This pilot program is offered to families and staff, for free, at One City Schools. We plan to continue this model with additional partner groups in the future.

What the program offers:

– A Personal Finance and Homeownership course, for free, for One City families and staff. 

– Down payment funds of $15,000, per family, for those who complete the educational program.

All of this work is nowhere near enough to create equity in the housing market. But it’s a start. We have to start somewhere. The program was created by folks in the real estate, banking, and financial communities based on our experience first hand in witnessing how the system isn’t working for Black families and we believe it has the power to move the needle. 

Madison can only be one of the best places to live if everyone feels that way. We want Madison to continue to be on the best places to live lists for the right reasons.

***For more information about how to support a more equitable homeownership program, check out Own It: Building Black Wealth

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