Wells Fargo in downtown Washington, D.C. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)
**FILE** Wells Fargo in downtown Washington, D.C. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)

It’s easy for today’s consumers to proclaim homeownership as something they’re determined to achieve among their long-term goals — but that’s often before potential homebuyers take into account the list of requirements and financial thresholds that they’ll need to eventually face and meet.

However, before throwing up your hands because of the complexities associated with the home loan process or due to that unsettling fear that you may not qualify, you’d be wise to take a look at some of the new programs initiated by nationwide financial lending institutions developed in order to enable more first-time homebuyers and low- to moderate-income consumers to successfully participate in the American dream of homeownership.

And just in case you need a hint on where to begin, we suggest you visit Wells Fargo & Company, long respected for its history of responsible lending and who, earlier this year, announced plans to commit $60 billion in lending over a 10-year period targeting African-American consumers — America’s lowest segment of homeowners.

In addition, and as part of the same newly announced initiative, Wells Fargo has set its sights on increasing the diversity of its sales team with respect to African Americans, particularly because the mortgage industry has so few Blacks within its ranks.

Cerita Battles, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Senior Vice President and Head of Retail Diverse Segments, advises consumers to take advantage of homebuyer education opportunities like those offered by her company so that they can make more informed decisions.

She says that while she’s excited about the new plan, she and other company executives realize that it’s going to take hard work, the willingness to forge partnerships with others and a well-devised and frequently reviewed game plan.

“This commitment will impact about 250,000 African-American households if we are able to reach our goal in 10 years — it’s a precedent we’ve set that we hope other lenders will follow in their efforts to increase or advance African-American homeownership. And it really holds us accountable as a lender too,” Battles said.

A veteran in the financial industry for over 27 years, 20 specifically dedicated to mortgage, Battles says current statistics of homeownership serve as one of several reasons why Wells Fargo made such a noteworthy commitment.

“The average rate of ownership in the U.S., 63.5 percent, is below the average rate for whites, 77 percent, but significantly higher than the rates for Asians, Hispanics and Blacks, 53, 45 and 42 percent, respectively,” she said. “We’re committed to increasing the rate for those segments like Blacks who have been at the bottom for far too long. However, we know that we must first instill greater confidence in the Black community in relationship to homeownership. They have to trust us. We’re going to make that happen.”

“Homeownership remains among those critical pillars that help us establish wealth in our communities and over generations. And we believe our plan, based on four key components, will help us achieve a real increase in the number of Black homeowners. We’re reaching out to area lenders, community leaders, advocacy groups and consumers. We’re reaching out to the Black church and the Black press and Black business owners. We’re going to need the entire village to become involved,” Battles added.

Battles, always a realist, emphasizes that “no silver bullet” exists that would help the Black community make up the differential in terms of homeownership rates for Blacks and whites. But she says Wells Fargo remains confident that their plan will yield significant results — especially with the assistance of the entire community.

“Our four-pillared strategy is t: 1) Mirror the communities we serve; 2) Be present in the markets we serve; 3) Build and enhance relationships with key referral sources like real estate agents and; 4) Expand access to credit by providing products and programs, education and processes that enable sustainable homeownership,” Battles said.

“We cannot allow any delays, particularly given the current administration now in the White House. It’s critical for us to continue working with the D.C. entities so we can work toward changing some of the housing policies that make it more difficult to increase and expand credit.”

“here are already down payment assistance programs out there that make it possible for someone with a credit score as low as 620 to get a loan rate as low as 3 percent — people simply need to know where to look.”

“Just last year we created a program for those entering into their first mortgage, specifically working families, and the numbers that been impressive. As of the first quarter of 2017, we recorded an increase of 22,000 homebuyers. Sixty-percent of those new homeowners participated in homebuyer education courses, realizing the importance of being prepared before one sets out to purchase a home.”
“It takes some work, some strategizing and becoming better educated — but homeownership for Blacks, and others, is not an impossible dream,” Battles said.

D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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