‘The House Tea with Khadeen’ is a monthly blog post to help D.C. residents better understand and access affordable housing.
In September, Thomas, our Executive Director, and I attended the Equitable Communities Conference hosted by CNHED. It was a time to be had; the speakers were insightful, and I met some fantastic peers in the industry.
During the 3 course meal- might I add that it was a pretty good vegetarian selection- the keynote speaker, Director Christopher Donald, Executive Director/CEO, D.C Housing Finance Agency (DCHFA) delivered what some of us would call “a good word.” His speech explored what it meant to align our mission as practitioners with those we serve. He said that DCHFA did this by creating personas of D.C. residents they aimed to serve. I was delighted to hear that from their research, they discovered that the typical D.C. homebuyer was a ‘bad and boujee’ black woman they called Taylor.
By grounding our work in human-centered design (HCD) and racial equity, Medici Road also creates personas to empathize with the people we aim to serve. As the Housing Manager, I dived into data about Deanwood, a neighborhood in Ward 7 and developed Breona, our own persona. She is as ‘bad and boujee’ as the persona created by DCHFA. She is a young Black woman earning over $70,000 per year with some college education and goals of purchasing a home to build wealth. Like Taylor, she is likely behind her White counterparts in achieving her goals because it will take her longer to buy a home., She earns less than her equally educated peers, has student loans, and will not receive a monetary gift from her parents to pay for college ,make an earnest money deposit or start a business.
Now, let’s admit but not name names- we all have at least one friend who loves brunch. Suppose we imagine that Breona is that friend and, when we attend the brunch, we meet an acquaintance or two, one of them is Taylor. We are trying to buy houses, travel, and embrace the soft life. All of these symbols of America were enjoyed by grandparents and, to an extent, our parents, only a generation or 2 prior. Today, they are becoming increasingly unaffordable, especially in the DMV. Like many BIPOC residents in D.C., we are deciding to buy homes outside the District to get a bigger bang for our buck and dream beyond that proverbial first step to wealth building. After saving, talking to our trusted networks, and attending classes, we still face many other challenges during this journey that we don’t foresee because many of us are first-generation or maybe the second to attend college. So, after talking to folks, here are some quick lessons I’ve compiled. I hope that by bringing them to the forefront, they will be helpful to other Breonas and service providers on the journey to homeownership.
- In D.C., anyone wanting to secure down payment assistance, such as HPAP, must attend at least one 8-hour homebuyer preparation class. These classes are helpful, but the process can be better. For example, the classes can be repetitive but we will get into that in another piece.
- Real estate professionals- agents, lenders, counselors – work well together, making it easy for potential buyers to feel like outsiders. They know each other and speak real estate lingo, but buying a house is a big commitment.
- Potential buyers should ask any and all questions and… you guessed it- wait for answers. They should also feel comfortable walking away if the solutions aren’t reasonable. Potential buyers, I am speaking to you. YOU HAVE PERMISSION TO WALK AWAY at any point during the process (before closing a house).
- Speak and interview as many professionals- agents, lenders, banks, and CBOs as you need to before making a commitment and choose to work with the ones who are most respectful and listen to your needs. Remember, you are the client to be served!
All the items listed above speak to the general tone of the home-buying ecosystem. It makes participation challenging. Considering the mental hurdle of committing to a 30-year mortgage, reservations about institutions, and perhaps, an uneasiness with money ( if you’re from a family that has struggled with finances), potential buyers need to be able to walk into that ecosystem more easily. Millennials and Gen-Zers want the ‘soft life’. So again, if we want more Breonas and Taylors to put down property tax-generating roots, we need to create an ecosystem that treats the participants less like they are asking for a favor and operates more on dignity.
Sit tight for next month’s piece and click on this link to connect with Khadeen if you would like to learn more!