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SUNO to host home buying workshop for African Americans

24th July 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Fritz Esker
Contributing Writer

The National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) is hosting a New Orleans Community Wealth Building Day for African-American residents on July 29 from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO).

The event will feature real estate industry experts, housing counselors, mortgage lenders and representatives from government agencies. It’s free and open to the public. Families are welcome and there will be childcare available at the Youth Academy. There will also be a school supplies drive that will provide school supplies for 100 local families.

“It’s time for us to come together as a people to teach and practice wealth building in our community through real estate investing because black homeownership matters,” said Mary Adams Thomas, president of New Orleans Real Estate Brokers.

NAREB is a 70-year-old minority real estate trade association and the July 29 event is part of its “2 Million New Black Homeowners in 5 Years” program.

There will be discussions about the availability of purchase assistance funds, addressing bad credit issues, preserving wealth, and a session to help attendees understand the mortgage process, what to expect from lenders, and what to ask them. There will also be a special class for real estate investors on how to purchase tax foreclosures. Attendees will also learn about getting insurance coverage and working with the insurance industry. The first 75 people to arrive will receive a free credit report and assessment.

There will be several guest speakers, including Pastor Herbert Rowe of the Upper Room Church; Igwe E. Udeh, PhD and dean of the College of Business and Public Administration at SUNO; Representative Joseph Bouie, Jr.; Dr. Mildred Dillon (a.k.a. “The Money Doctor), Councilman James Gray, and Sheriff Marlin N. Gusman.

According to the annual report by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, America’s national homeownership rate has declined for the 12th consecutive year. The steepest decline occurred in African-American communities, where the percentage of homeowners dropped to 42.2 percent from over 49 percent in 2004. The decline was greatest in Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas and Detroit.

The goal of wealth building day is to improve those numbers and empower African Americans to purchase homes and gain equity instead of paying rent for the rest of their lives.

“Homeownership is the American dream that cannot be, and should not be, denied to black Americans,” said Ron Cooper, president of NAREB, in a press release. “Advocacy, activism, and community education are the tools needed to build our wealth and asset base through homeownership…ownership is still possible, attainable, and desirable as the wealth building tool of choice.”

There are many reasons why homeownership has dropped among African Americans. Joanne Williams, a spokesperson for NAREB, said people are still recovering from the 2008 financial crisis. While that crisis was hard on Americans in general, it hit African Americans especially hard. People lost homes, jobs and income.

This crisis created a ripple effect in several areas. After so many people defaulted on their mortgage, banks and lenders became much more strict with giving out loans to homebuyers. Williams added that the crisis left an impression on young African Americans. After seeing their parents or other family members lose their homes, they are not as eager to buy homes as past generations were.

Williams said that the way credit scores are calculated also affects the ability of African Americans to buy houses. A person can pay his or her rent and utility bills on time for decades and it won’t be reflected in their credit score. The score is instead judged on consumer debt.

Thomas said misconceptions also scare off potential African-American homebuyers. She said many people think they need to pay 20 percent of the cost of the house as a downpayment. This is not true. Some programs offer 0-5 percent downpayment on houses.

The organizers hope this event will just be the start of continued education and empowerment. Courtney Johnson-Rose, NAREB 3rd Vice President, said it is not just a “hit and run.” She said SUNO will continue to provide space for NAREB to use to educate New Orleans residents on real estate and wealth building throughout the year.

This article originally published in the July 24, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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