NEWARK, NJ – Along with several panelists, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka discussed the relationship between the wealth gap in America and systemic racism and how officials in Newark are addressing the issue at the local level.
There are delays in several financial security measures in the Newark Black and Latinx households. Both earn less than the city’s median household income of $ 34,826 and earn $ 31,872 and $ 33,975, respectively, while white households make $ 49,146, according to a March 2021 report by Prosperity Now.
“New Jersey, where I live, has one of the biggest wealth gaps, if not the biggest wealth gap, in the nation, which means the work we have to do in Newark is enormous,” Baraka said. “The work that mayors have to do to fill this wealth gap is almost a miracle.”
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Approximately 75% of the city’s residents are renters, with more than half of these people paying more than 30% of their rental income.
While the cost of living is increasing, people’s wages are not. With longstanding and significant wealth gaps between families of different races and ethnic groups, the typical white family has eight times the wealth of the typical black family and five times the wealth of the typical Hispanic family, according to the Federal Reserve.
As Newark continues to recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials have made multiple efforts to improve home ownership and commerce for the city’s residents as part of a path to economic recovery.
Two notable programs that the Mayor highlighted in Wednesday’s virtual discussion were the expansion of the city’s 40 Acres and a Mule Fund (FAM) and the recent launch of the Newark Land Bank.
The FAM Fund was originally launched in Newark in 2020 and expanded nationwide to Orange, East Orange, Paterson, Camden, Trenton, Irvington and Atlantic City in February to address social and economic inequalities caused by systemic racism by providing capital to Black and White to combat Latinx business owners and communities.
Earlier this month, the city also launched Newark Land Bank, a Baraka-approved program to improve the quality of life for residents by increasing the capacity of developers and subcontractors owned by minority and women owned companies to provide inclusive investment opportunities for local communities Business to create entrepreneur.
The land bank is the first of its kind to be incorporated under New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s 2019 law. The program enables local authorities to designate a land bank to preserve vacant, abandoned, and neglected real estate for productive reuse.
With empty, vacant properties that have the potential to contribute to what the mayor has described as a “poor quality of life” for residents, the program offers Newarkers the opportunity to set up their own businesses.
“We are trying to develop programs locally that reduce housing costs and subsidize housing, but also create opportunities for home ownership,” he said.
As the city works to bridge the wealth gap, the mayor noted that introducing more policies and programs to improve the lifestyle and wellbeing of the city’s low-income and minority residents may help resolve the problem.
“People need to understand that if you are responsible for these cities, not only do you have to deal with snow removal and rubbish and pavement, but poverty, crime, housing problems, homelessness and all these existing problems are endemic to society and were created by this inequality that we talk about all the time, ”he said.
“Every day that we take the opportunity to lower people’s rent, put more money into their pockets through guaranteed income or increase the minimum wage, or give people access to low-income real estate and apartments – all of these things are opportunities to destroy historical racism and systemic inequality in this country. “