Blacks, Latinos, and Asians in Massachusetts are having a tougher time than whites in juggling housing costs with other everyday expenses, according to a University of Massachusetts study that seeks to spur debate as the governor's office changes hands.
Massachusetts homes headed by minorities were nearly twice as likely as white households in 2000 to find they didn't have enough cash left after rent and mortgage payments to adequately cover non housing needs, according to the report, released yesterday by a professor at the university's Boston campus.
And although government and private initiatives have put home ownership within reach of more low-income minorities, many such first-time homeowners find their low-down-payment mortgages put them at risk of foreclosure when they face even a small drop in income or unexpected medical bills.
"They're on the edge," said Michael Stone, a professor of community planning and public policy. "The slightest shock hits, and they're going to feed their kids before they pay their mortgage."
The study was commissioned by three institutes at the university that look at issues of concern to Latinos, blacks, and Asians. The report relied heavily on U S census data from 2000 .
Stone said a modest decline in housing prices this year in Massachusetts has gone only a little way to offset years of sharp increases that left the median price for a single-family home at $330,000 in this year's third quarter.
Stone's study examined the number of households experiencing what he called "shelter poverty," rather than taking a conventional approach of examining housing costs based on the percentage of household income spent on rent or a mortgage.
Shelter poverty refers to an inability to adequately meet non housing needs such as food, clothing, medical care, and transportation because most income goes toward housing.
The study found about 46 percent of minority households were living in shelter poverty in 2000.
The percentage was highest for households led by Latinos (46 percent), followed by blacks (42 percent) and Asians (39 percent).
Among whites, the shelter poverty rate was nearly 24 percent; for all races, it was nearly 27 percent.