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Business viewpoint: The future of affordable homeownership for Tulsa

Tulsa, Okla., February 21, 2020 - Actor and entrepreneur Wendell Pierce said, “That is the heart and soul of the American dream, homeownership, the idea of being able to buy a house and start to build your family.”

Pierce’s words reflect the long-held insight that homeownership remains the most reliable investment for building long-term financial stability. The accumulation of wealth in the form of equity provides a homeowner with greater access to credit for starting a business or investing in higher education. The opportunity to own a home makes the American Experience itself uniquely “American.”

However, the realization of affordable homeownership remains out of reach for a growing number of Americans. Like college expenses, in the past 20 years the cost of housing has largely outpaced income growth. The lack of affordable housing for ownership and renting became even more pronounced in 2020 with the onset of the COVID pandemic.

While Tulsa maintains a relatively low cost of living, there are affordability challenges. In a proactive approach to prevent Tulsa from reaching crisis level, city leaders unveiled an Affordable Housing Strategy in December 2019, with a goal of increasing affordable housing supply for both owners and renters. The study found the following.

  • Tulsa needs more than 4,000 affordable housing units.

  • A third of all Tulsa households are “cost-burdened,” meaning monthly housing expense exceeds 30% of gross income

  • Two-fifths of rental households are “severely cost-burdened,” meaning monthly housing expense exceeds 50% or more of gross income

Cost-burdened renters are unable to save towards a down payment when faced with ever increasing rents.

For low- and moderate-income families the effect is compounded as more of their income must be used for basic cost of necessities. Meanwhile, the price of housing continues to rise, which keeps the opportunity of homeownership ever a dream and never a reality.

This is especially seen in north Tulsa, a community not only decimated in the 1921 Race Massacre but which has also not realized the full promise of growth experienced by the rest of the city.

A comparison of the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data between the 22 north Tulsa census tracts and the other 155 census tracts in Tulsa County, shows the differences are staggering.

  • The average estimated family median income is only 46% of the rest of the county.

  • The average rate of poverty is 36% versus 15% in the rest of the county.

  • 44% of its homes are owner-occupied versus 69% for the rest of the county.

  • Almost 20% of all housing units are vacant versus 12% across the rest of the county.

Despite these very sobering statistics, there is something else that exists in the north Tulsa community — opportunity. By working together, Tulsa’s public and private sectors can boost the supply of affordable housing for the north Tulsa community which will be a foundation for its long-term economic growth.

The saying “hindsight is 20/20,” has taken on new meaning this year. As we enter the new year, let’s choose to make 2021 a year of foresight — by creating opportunity across all our communities as we work to build One Tulsa.

The article, written by Tina Johnson, Mortgage Center Manager for Gateway, was originally published in the Tulsa World on February 21, 2021, and can be found here.

About Gateway First Bank 

Gateway First Bank is a leading financial institution that provides banking and mortgage services for consumers and commercial customers. Headquartered in Jenks, Oklahoma, Gateway is a $1.9 billion asset sized bank with a strong mortgage operation.  Gateway is one of the largest banking and mortgage operations in the United States with six bank branches in Oklahoma, over 160 mortgage centers in 42 states, and almost 1,600 employees.  Learn more at Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender (NMLS 7233)

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