The Silent Housing Crisis: One in Four AAPI People Impacted
with Seema Agnani of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD)
One in four Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) households are severely cost-burdened, paying more than half of their income toward housing costs.
Seema Agnani, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD), joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss efforts to tackle the AAPI housing crisis through multilingual housing counseling programs for vulnerable members of the population
May 01, 2023
Anderson: More Asian Americans are buying their own homes, but home ownership in this community still lags behind white Americans by more than 13%. That is according to Realtor.com. Hello and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Home ownership and housing instability are two areas where low-income AAPIs are disproportionately impacted. Joining me to talk about how targeted community funding can help local groups funnel resources to AAPIs in need is Seema Agnani. She is the executive director of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development. And, Seema, thank you so much for being here.
Agnani: Thank you for having me.
Anderson: So we just heard about that home buying gap between Asian Americans and white Americans. What are the big reasons behind that and what do they signify about what's going on within the AAPI community as a whole?
Agnani: Well, you know, Tetiana, the Asian American and Pacific Islander community is pretty heavily concentrated in the highest cost cities. And so for that reason, housing is a real challenge for our communities, particularly for those on the lower end of the economic spectrum. But home ownership is lower, one, because there really isn't enough housing available that is affordable to people. But also there are barriers to accessing mortgages, things like increased debt, credit, and of course, language access is an issue for many home buyers.
Anderson: So your work is about much more than home buying, of course. I mean, you tackle community development, organization advocacy for the whole AAPI population. Why is that so important and what are you doing to create that?
Agnani: Yeah. So, National CAPACD, you know, we're a coalition of organizations, more than 100 local groups in our network. They do everything from tenant organizing to helping people navigate the home-buying process. But also a lot of our groups are really involved in neighborhood development. And so what we're really trying to do is help ensure that our communities have a say in what happens to the communities they live in and the neighborhoods. So places like Chinatown, Little Tokyo, you know, where I used to work in Jackson Heights, Queens, these are cultural districts that are really important for our communities, not just for the shopping, but also because they serve as really important safety nets and celebrate our communities as well. And so what we're trying to do is ensure our communities engage in planning processes. You know, when the city creates opportunity for people to engage, we want to make sure our communities are there, too.
Anderson: So, we know that there was this rise in anti-Asian hate that was sparked arguably by the coronavirus, and that led you to develop something called the Community Resilience Fund. Explain what it is and what it does.
Agnani: So, the Community Resilience Fund, we established because, you know, there was increased attention on our communities because of the rise in hate incidences. And, you know, there's immediate work that needs to be done when those incidences occur. But there's also the longer term work that really needs to happen, which is building, you know, relationships with other communities of color who are the neighbors, you know, and so what we're trying to do with the Community Resilience Fund is create opportunities, invest in that long-term work that really needs to happen on the neighborhood level and encourage communities to talk to one another, slow down and really take the time to understand cultural differences and nuances so that we can all work more effectively together.
Anderson: So it's about that work together. And I really want to give the viewers a sense of how you accomplish that. So can you give us an example of a sort of problem and solution that you developed based on the tools and resources that you provide to the AAPI community?
Agnani: So, one example is in Los Angeles. You know, in L.A., there is Skid Row, Chinatown and Little Tokyo. And those three communities are pretty distinct. However, leaders from those organizations that work in those neighborhoods have come together and worked together for a very long time. And so what we are trying to do is give them support to really continue to work together as the city of L.A. develops its equitable -- you know, its own plan. And so they work together on a racial-equity plan for the city of Los Angeles. So important. You know, Skid Row is one of the few neighborhoods where African Americans still live in Los Angeles. And so, you know, because of the growing tensions between our communities, that long-term work of helping groups come together to build trust, build relationships but then also engage in the city's planning process together with a unified voice, you know, will help to ensure that the city develops in a way that allows for those communities to stay and thrive.
Anderson: So all of this has really led to your organization expanding its scope of work and really looking at racial and equity issues within the Black community, the Hispanic community, the Native American community. Why is that so important?
Agnani: So, you know, we're trying to ensure -- we're trying to take the time to think about what our own biases are as well. You know, why is it important? You know, how are we going to make progress in this country if our communities do not work together? Right? So we're really thinking about long-term building amongst local community organizations and, you know, I think in terms of looking at, you know, the challenges that we each face, it takes time to really understand each other's history, how we came to this country. You know, the indigenous populations were here before we came to the United States, many of us. And so, you know, we have to understand one another's histories in order to get to a better place as a country. And so National CAPACD, You know, our founders were active in the civil rights movement. We have always worked across racial lines. But what we're trying to do now is really take the time to think about what is our role and our responsibility to other communities of color in this time.
Anderson: People are going to want to know more about what you do. What's your website?
Agnani: We're at nationalcapacd.org. That's C-A-P-A-C-D dot org. You can find a list of our members and all of our member organizations there.
Anderson: Seema Agnani, thank you so much for being here.
Agnani: Thank you.
Anderson: And thanks to our viewers as well for watching. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.