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June is National Homeownership Month By Janice Parker

June is designated as National Homeownership Month. A time in which we raise awareness about homeownership and to celebrate families, communities, and the economic prosperity homeownership often brings. It acknowledges those who have “dared to own the dream,” and encourages potential homebuyers to take that leap of faith and work with HUD approved housing counselors and industry leaders to make their own dreams come true. Housing counselors know best that homeownership is not the best choice for everyone and they help families assess the benefits and responsibilities of buying versus renting.

National Homeownership Month is also a time to reaffirm the important role that ‘home’ plays for our families and the neighborhoods where they live. Owning a home has historically been the principal vehicle for Americans to build equity, start businesses, put kids through college, and retire with comfort and dignity. For me personally, National Homeownership Month will always be about helping consumers make an informed choice to purchase a good home at an affordable price with a mortgage they can afford and understand. Purchasing a home can come easier for some than others, particularly harder for African Americans. The reason for this dismal reality is that Blacks have never enjoyed equal access to mainstream mortgage credit. Rather, Black families attempting to become homeowners have largely been trapped, either in a vicious cycle of predatory mortgage schemes or by an absolute denial of access to home loans. The Obama Administration worked very hard to build a more durable and fair housing finance system that promoted the American Dream of homeownership while preventing the unsustainable forms of home purchase that fueled the housing crisis that happened several years ago.

Gains in black homeownership have been hard won, which amplifies our concern that in the last 15 years, black homeownership rates have declined to levels not seen since the 1960s, when private-based discrimination was legal.  Housing finance industry barriers such as credit-scoring models, the lack of affordable housing inventory and economic constraints like unemployment and under-employment contribute to low homeownership among African Americans. In addition, barriers to homeownership in black communities include the costs associated with accessing mortgage credit, limited funds for down payment and lender averseness to extend credit to consumers with lower credit scores and smaller down payments. Unless this setback to black homeownership is addressed, black families will continue to rent instead of obtaining the dream of homeownership. This also will shrink the landscape of housing choice available to black families and delay and/or close off a key wealth building strategy.  All of the outcomes will widen the inequality that underlies so many current struggles in our community. An erosion of homeownership rates among African Americans represents not only a devastating financial loss but a barrier to full participation in the American dream.

The praise report is that this is changing! Several national and local mortgage lenders have made the African American lending commitment a top priority in their company’s housing policy. They are committed to advancing homeownership for minorities, first-time homebuyers and low- to moderate-income individuals and families.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by the year 2024, 75 percent of the expected 14 million new households (renters and owners) in the U.S. will be diverse. African Americans are projected to represent 17 percent, or the third largest segment, of the new households. Homeownership is the single most important asset for wealth accumulation by the typical American household.

According to a 2016 survey, 90 percent of African Americans say homeownership is a “dream come true,” 79 percent say it’s essential for building families and 51 percent are considering buying a home in the next two years. Congratulations if you’re a homeowner and I encourage you to continue to preserve the American Dream. Protect one of your greatest assets and seek housing counseling should you fall behind in your mortgage payments or even worse face foreclosure. There are many programs that are available to you that will allow you to keep your home. A HUD Certified Housing Counselor can assist you with these options at no cost to you!

If you’re on a journey of obtaining the dream of homeownership, don’t give up! I encourage you to EDUCATE yourself on the process of buying a home. Purchasing a home is often the biggest financial decision a person makes, which is why it is very important to make sure the right decision is being made. It is necessary to weigh out the advantages and disadvantages of home ownership for your personal situation. You must consider the short term and long term commitments, affordability, and your financial and personal goals before you take the plunge into home ownership. If you are thinking of purchasing a home, seek out a HUD Certified Housing Counselor who can help you plan for sustainable home ownership. In the central Illinois area, you have two options to work with HUD approved housing counseling agencies:

Navicore Solution, 416 Main Street, Suite 800, Peoria, IL 61602 (866) 472-4557 x80174

METEC Housing Counseling Resource Center, 2605 W. Krause Ave, Peoria, IL 61605 (309) 676-3832.