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San Diego Housing Commission launches pilot program for BIPOC first-time home buyers

"You could have an 800 credit score and still be denied," says the president of the Urban League.

SAN DIEGO — Despite more Americans owning a home today than a decade ago, Black and Hispanic homeowners across California have decreased. That's why the San Diego Housing Commission launched their First Time Home Buyer Pilot program for Black and indigenous people of color to help potential homeowners.

Black and Latino homeownership rates are the lowest among California ethnic groups, according to The California Association of Realtors. The rate of Black homeowners was about 50% at its’ peak in 2004 while the number of Latino homeowners was about 56%. Since then, rates for both groups have dropped significantly behind all other racial and ethnic groups.

Al Abdallah is the president and CEO of The Urban League of San Diego. "These are systemic racial issues that we must tackle in this country," Abdallah said. 

Despite all families' racial makeup, the dream of home ownership is more out of reach as San Diego's housing market prices continue to rise. 

"I believe that the median price of a home exceeds $800,000, which is one of the highest prices in the country, rising interest rates, a lack of inventory, all these converging factors make it nearly impossible for the average family to own a home."

But for Black and Hispanic families, Abdallah says, "You could have an 800 credit score and still be denied. The data does not lie. This is not anecdotal. This is empirical data. This would not be an issue if we could have a society in which everybody had equity. But that has not been the case here."

According to The California Association of Realtors, housing affordability for all Californians deteriorates as home prices set record highs and interest rates surge.

  • About one in five Californians earned enough to purchase an $800,000 home.
  • By ethnic groups, one-fourth of white Californians can afford a home at this price.
  • 31% of Asians can afford a median-priced home.
  • Only one in 10 Black and Latino households could afford the same home price.

Abdallah says the lack of home ownership reverberates across families and communities for decades. "You could do all the right things. But if you're paying $3,000, $4,000 per month for rent, how will you save money for down payment assistance? You fall farther and farther behind regarding generational wealth because, you know, homeownership is the easiest way to build generational wealth."

Sesch Booker bought his first home after going to the Urban League for help.

“The hard part was just those initial costs to get my foot in the door in California,” he said. “They sent me an intake form, and I filled it out. And it was just very simple from there. You get your approval from the designated banks, and your pre-approvals launch, you know, how much you have, then you could go do the fun part, which is shopping." 

Sesch says having resources like The Urban League’s First Time Home Buyer Program made the nearly impossible possible. "I was able to secure a $40,000 grant from the Urban League, and then first citizen bank partnered with them and gave an additional 30k That went towards closing costs, mortgage rate went down, and things of that nature. So, it was awesome. The money that I had been saving for a down payment, because I was given that, I could put that towards the remodel renovation."

Lupe Flores with The Chicano Federation says that despite rising homeownership rates for potential Hispanic homeowners, Latinos are also less likely to own a home. 

“These communities were hit very hard by the COVID-19 pandemic; they're still recovering. And even though the state of emergency is over, they worked in the service industries that, you know, again, were hardest hit. Our communities aren't necessarily able to be as competitive as families that have the means. We've seen a lot of folks either moving to neighboring counties that aren't as densely populated or even neighboring states."

Sujata Raman is the Vice President of Single-Family Housing Finance at The San Diego Housing Commission. 

Raman told CBS 8, “Research has shown that the single biggest generator of wealth, especially amongst minorities and people of color, is homeownership." Raman adds that the San Diego Housing Commission’s mission is to make homeownership attainable for every Californian despite their race. “At the moment, we have plenty of funds available. We have a very robust first-time homebuyer program, where we offer a down payment loan for 22% of the purchase price of a home. In addition, we offer a closing cost grant for up to $10,000 to help first-time homebuyers. To qualify, you have to be below 80%, area median income to be able to purchase a home and use one of our programs. So that's, $104,000 for a family of four."

This new program launched by The San Diego Housing Commission is specifically tailored for households of color. It aims to bridge the gap for middle-income families with higher earning thresholds of $175,200 for a family of four in San Diego. 

City council president pro-tem Monica Montgomery Steppe says the new BIPOC-specific approach will help. 

"We have to do the best that we possibly can to ensure that our families have that type of down payment assistance that a family needs because they may be making good money to pay a mortgage, but they may not be able to save the larger amounts that are needed when it comes to down payment to buying a home," said Montgomery-Steppe.

The Urban League of San Diego and The San Diego Housing Commission have programs to help bridge the gap in home ownership. The Chicano Federation works with families who need housing assistance.

Lupe says the process sounds intimidating, but the risk of trying is worth the reward. “If you're not asking, it will always be a no. If you're not applying, it will be a no."

The San Diego Housing Commission's new BIPOC pilot program is for households of black, indigenous, and people of color. The program gives you money for a down payment - made up of a $20,000 grant and a $20,000 loan. That loan is deferred with no monthly payments required for about seven years. After eight years - the principal and interest are combined into one monthly payment over the next 96 months. You are eligible as long as you earn up to 150% of the San Diego area's median income. That's currently $175,200 per year for a family of four. The maximum home purchase price is 1.25 million.

For more information on San Diego's Housing Commission's new BIPOC pilot program, click here.

For more information on the Urban League of San Diego County's First-Time Home Buyer Program, click here.

For more information on San Diego's Housing Commission's First Time Home Buyer Program, click here.

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