By Michael Brown
Homeownership is one of the main ways that families in the US build generational wealth and achieve financial security. But due to our country’s long history of discriminatory housing practices, housing stability has been hard to come by for households that are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
The homeownership gap is widest for Black families, with 40% of Black Washingtonians having almost zero net worth. As a result, Black households are disproportionately represented among the residents of our area who are paying too much rent and who are experiencing homelessness. Homeownership is a long and arduous journey for many in our region, but the dream is especially difficult for those who are struggling to meet their basic needs and who have not benefitted from intergenerational assets and wealth.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the inequities that members of our community face and the role of philanthropy in addressing it. For me, August being Black Philanthropy Month is a time to bring awareness to the importance of supporting the Black community and Black-led organizations.
Black philanthropy is nothing new. It’s intertwined and embedded in our generational history. As the Banks family shared in this post about bolstering Black philanthropy, “Philanthropy isn’t necessarily a term that is widely used in the African American community and yet the essence of the term is an integral part of Black identity.”
What I find to also be true is that the fragmentation of our world means that we often don’t learn about what others are doing or hear about opportunities to get involved until the moment has passed.
That is why I believe the Black Home Initiative (BHI) is so important. BHI is a network of nonprofits, private companies, philanthropy, governments, and associations focused on increasing Black homeownership in our region. The word “network” is a critical one. Like a constellation, BHI is made up of bright, strong partners, many of them Black-led organizations stars in their own right who are deeply familiar with the systemic wrongs that make it difficult for Black families to realize their homeownership dreams.
It’s a collective effort to help close the homeownership gap and create opportunities for 1,500 new low- and moderate-income Black households to own a home in South Seattle, South King County, and North Pierce County within the next five years. Through a seven-point plan that includes credit and lending, purchase support tools and sustaining existing owners, BHI is focused on removing the barriers that impede access to homeownership and bringing about lasting systemic change.
To celebrate Black Philanthropy Month, I want to showcase two of the stars in the BHI constellation – organizations that are doing the heavy lifting to ensure more Black families can achieve their dreams of owning a home in our region.
- Nehemiah Initiative Seattle (NIS) is a faith-based community development initiative and an example of Black faith-based entities coming together and using their assets to support housing. NIS’s mission is to disrupt the displacement of the African American community from urban centers and support retention of historically Black faith-based organizations through the development of affordable homes, community spaces, and business places on the underutilized property owned by those organizations. NIS is a partner, advocate, and has pledged to assist in the development of more than 200 homes on their underutilized property.
- HomeSight is a nonprofit that develops real estate for low- and middle-income families and small-business community anchors. Like a bank, HomeSight helps people get mortgage loans. Unlike a bank, their goal is not to generate profits for shareholders but instead every profit is immediately reinvested back into the community. Together, Black Home Initiative and HomeSight have joined in their commitment to create opportunities and bridge the gaps in underserved communities. HomeSight is taking a leadership role in creating the Field Order 15 Fund, a new predevelopment fund to support for-profit Black and BIPOC developers.
This month and every month forward, I encourage you to give to organizations like Nehemiah and Homesight, and others like them that are working to improve access to homeownership opportunities for those who have been left behind. Because I believe that the key to solving the housing crisis in our region is to shift our mindset away from working as bright but separate stars, and instead work like a highly connected constellation to shine brighter together.