Harlem’s rate of homeownership is strikingly low. A new choose your adventure video game attempts to explore why housing in the U.S. has not fairly delivered housing-derived middle-class lives to many Americans, particularly people of color. This game explodes the larger American myth that homeownership can be achieved by anyone through hard work and smart decision-making.
The game – Dot’s Home – was created by housing and community advocates and wants to reveal the illusion of choice and opportunity in the housing system.
In “Dot’s Home,” players step into the shoes of Dorothea “Dot” Hawkins, a young Black woman living in her grandma’s house. The home, in a disinvested Black neighborhood in Detroit, is in desperate need of repairs. “Dot” travels back in time, via a magic key, to help her family make crucial housing decisions that will ultimately affect her own future. These decisions include whether her grandparents should invest in a shoddy house as their first home, and whether her parents should move away from their community to the suburbs after their home in a public housing development is set for demolition.
But here’s the rub: In the game that is the American housing system, there are no great outcomes for a Black woman — just ones that are more or less bittersweet.
As Dot, players pass through different decades, each one highlighting a defining moment in history for Black homeownership: the Great Migration of the 20th century, urban renewal efforts in the 1990s, and finally, the 2010 foreclosure crisis that helped spur gentrification. Along the way, players navigate racist housing policies and predatory lending practices whose impacts reverberate across generations in real life.
“We wanted players to play the game and not necessarily empathize with Dot’s family but just to bear witness to, and accompany them through, these very intimate but consequential moments,” says Christina Rosales, housing and land director at the community organizing nonprofit PowerSwitch Action and a co-producer of the game.
By offering an intimate look at how housing discrimination affects one family, “Dot’s Home” aims to be relatable to its target audience — someone who knows these challenges first-hand, and whose experience is not unlike that of the team behind the game.
“This game is essentially made by people of color, for people of color,” says Rosales. “So it contains all of these intimate moments that are a reflection of the team’s own family histories and interactions with neighbors.”
The game, free to download through Steam, was recently featured at the Game Developers of Color Expo and was a 2021 Impact Award Nominee at IndieCade.
We are often told, when it comes to housing, that we have a choice. We can choose where we want to live, we can make all these sacrifices and build our wealth. We are told that, if we just do the right things, we can have a prosperous life. The developers wanted to have players explore that feeling of false agency and false choices.
Racial Bias in Home Valuation
Examining housing appraisals from Jan. 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2021, researchers found:
- 12.5% of appraisals in majority-Black census tracts came in below the contract price of the houses they assessed compared to 7.4% of appraisals in white tracts. For appraisals in majority-Latino tracts, 15.4% were valued lower than the contract price. For both Black and Latino areas, the percentage of undervalued appraisals increased as the white population percentage decreased.
- The undervalued appraisals occurred more frequently in Black and Latino tracts even when taking structural and neighborhood characteristics into account.
- Racial gaps were found even when just looking at the race of the mortgage applicant as opposed to the neighborhoods the homes were in: 8.6% of Black applicants received appraisals lower than the contract price of the house, as did 9.5% of Latino applicants, compared to 6.5% of white applicants and 7.1% of applicants overall.
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Oh, and Co-Ops…
HNBA’s March Meeting with Wilfredo Lopez
Topic: HNBA Meeting
Date: Mar 8, 2022 10:03 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
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