NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Cooper Union is featuring "What Makes a House a Home" - a new exhibit that answers that question through the eyes of elementary and middle school students.
A Cooper Union art graduate and the college's STEM outreach program helped children design the exhibit, which highlights the history of Black homeownership in New York City.
"Here's our opportunity to give voice to the importance of Black families and staying together and being able to have a wonderful home," Executive Director of Divas for Social Clarisa James said.
The multimedia display is part of a collaboration between Divas for Social Justice and the Center for New York City Neighborhoods called the Black Housing Project.
Together the two organizations aim to expand Black homeownership by empowering children as young as eight years old to believe owning their own home is possible, even in a city as expensive as New York.
Students research how to build and buy homes along with how mortgages work in the Divas for Social Justice after-school program
"One of the things they are learning about is redlining and what does that look like in our communities," James said.
New York City's Black homeownership rate was about 17% in 2021 compared to about 47% for white homeownership.
Activists blame predatory mortgage prices and skyrocketing prices.
Meanwhile, the city's Black population dropped by 9% between 2000 and 2020.
"It's an indication New York City is becoming unaffordable," said Garry Johnson the Economic Development Chair of the NYS Conference NAACP. "Communities change and culture and history changes and that's concerning in the long run."
In order to reverse, the trend outreach programs like Divas for Social Justice are starting from the ground up. Putting mentees on the path to homeownership and eventually achieve generational wealth.
"I hope its placing the seed," James said. "For the young people in our program that they see themselves as homeowners.
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