Ghostbuying and housing opportunities today

Tom - Posted on 07 May 2012

Last night, the curtain closed on the Huntington Theatre Company's powerful production of "The Luck of the Irish." Set in the 1950's, the play tells the story of an African-American family trying to buy a house in an all-white suburb. They end up paying a struggling Irish family to act as their front in order to complete the purchase. The play moves back and forth from the 1950's to the present day and leaves the question of how far we have come since that time open for inspection.

Clearly, the days of restrictive covenants and real estate agents and homeowners blatantly refusing to sell homes in "white" neighborhoods to people of color are behind us. But studies show that we still have work to do.

In Changing Patterns XVIII, a report prepared for the Massachusetts Community Banking Council, total home-purchase lending to blacks and Latinos was highly concentrated in a small number of the state’s cities and towns and entirely absent in others. Changing Patterns was authored by Jim Campen, professor emeritus of economics at UMass Boston and longtime MAHA board member.

Just four cities (Boston, Brockton, Springfield and Worcester) accounted for over one-half of total loans to blacks in Massachusetts, but for only 11% of the state’s total loans to whites. Eight communities (Lawrence, Boston, Springfield, Lynn, Revere, Worcester, Chelsea and Metheun) accounted for over one-half of all lending to Latinos in the state, but for just 12% of total lending to whites. In 123 communities in 2010 – over one-third of the state’s 351 cities and towns – there was not a single loan to either a black or a Latino homebuyer.

With fair housing and fair lending laws firmly in place, the practice of ghostbuying is no longer necessary. But with mortgage lending to Blacks and Latinos still that concentrated in Massachusetts fifty years later, it is fair to ask how will we unlock opportunities for the next generation of black and Latino homebuyers.


Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance
1803 Dorchester Avenue
Dorchester, MA 02124
By email:
By phone: 617-822-9100
By fax: 617-265-7503