Fair Housing Month Feature: NeighborWorks America

Fair Housing Month Feature

The American Property Owners Alliance (The Alliance) is deeply committed to improving fair housing protections to make property ownership accessible for all Americans. We know that a critical step to achieve equity in homeownership is to support organizations and advocates who are dedicated to protecting fair housing rights and expanding opportunity.

Meet NeighborWorks America, a nonprofit with a network of nearly 250 organizations nationwide[1] that creates opportunities for people to live in affordable homes, improve their lives and strengthen their communities. NeighborWorks America’s Senior Vice President Lee Anne Adams explains the common barriers people face in the homebuying process, how the NeighborWorks network helps people access sustainable homeownership, and what the future of fair housing looks like.

Why is equitable access to housing so important?

Lee Anne: Homeownership is a means to build long-term generational wealth. Passing on a home and land from one generation to the next creates a path to family wealth-building. That wealth also provides a means for families to invest in their children’s education or to start a business. Before the passing of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, black families were locked out of the chance to create generational wealth because they were denied mortgage loans and access to certain neighborhoods. Our 2020 Housing and Financial Capability Survey found that only 40% of black people own their home[2]. In reality, the gap between black and white homeownership rates is wider now than it was prior to when race-based discrimination was legal. Homeownership is one of the most impactful ways to help address the racial wealth gap in our nation.

What are common obstacles and discrimination that people face when trying to rent or buy a home?

Lee Anne: Common obstacles people face when trying to rent or buy a home include lack of down payment or first month’s rent, access to affordable credit, lack of affordable supply and lack of knowledge about and/or resources to help with the process.

We recommend that potential homebuyers not go it alone. HUD-approved housing counselors are available at NeighborWorks organizations across the country to help people seeking housing stability prepare for buying a home. This includes helping people understand the process, what to expect, how to set financial goals and improve their credit score and how to choose a first mortgage product.

How does your organization help individuals and families overcome the barriers to housing access to increase equity in housing?

Lee Anne: Our network of nearly 250 organizations nationwide helps people access sustainable homeownership by offering a range of services from financial coaching to pre-purchase counseling and homebuyer education to down payment assistance programs and affordable first mortgage products. Our network also owns and manages nearly 180,000 affordable rental homes for individuals and families[3]. We are proud to have partnered with Wells Fargo since 2012 on the Let’s Invest for Tomorrow (LIFT) down payment assistance program, which has provided more than $330 million in down payment assistance and created more than 24,000 homeowners[4], 63% of which are minorities[5]. Over 40% of LIFT participants report that they pay less for housing than they did prior to closing[6]. One borrower’s monthly housing costs decreased from $1,000 per month to about $700 once they became a homeowner.

What does the future of fair housing look like?

Lee Anne: Our industry must remain diligent in our work and exponentially expand opportunities and assistance for people to obtain and sustain affordable housing.

“To overcome the longstanding and growing inequities in our communities, we need to reach common goals and align resources across sectors to make impact.”

A variety of partners need to invest in down payment assistance programs, housing counseling, financial coaching and other services. Additionally, policies and financing that favor affordable single-family and multi-family development is critical. While the challenges are real, the possibilities are numerous. With investment to scale what works and new policy solutions, we can remove barriers and create opportunities for all people to access housing.

Learn more about NeighborWorks America.

About the American Property Owners Alliance

The American Property Owners Alliance (The Alliance) is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization created to protect and support property owners and pave the way for future property owners. Our mission is to educate property owners about federal issues, laws and policies; to advocate for owners’ rights and interests; and to mobilize, when necessary, to secure those rights and interests.

Sign The American Property Owners Alliance petition to Congress urging them to support property owners and remove barriers to more affordable housing.

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