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Racial justice fund launches Black homeownership program in Richmond

Main St. Station is shown in Shockoe Slip.
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
The city skyline is seen behind the Main Street Station in Shockoe Slip, Richmond, is seen on Dec. 5, 2023.

The pilot will offer payment assistance and housing counseling.

A group of Black-led giving circles and nonprofits is working to narrow the racial homeownership gap in Richmond.

The Southside Community Development and Housing Corporation is introducing a pilot program to advance Black homeownership in Virginia’s capital city through down payment assistance and housing counseling. It’s being funded through a $200,000 grant from the Amandla Fund for Economic and Racial Justice.

SCDHC, which recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, will administer the Economic Mobility and Black Homeownership Pilot Program’s funding and work with the families.

“Broadly, Black homeownership in Richmond is consistent with trends elsewhere in the nation — significantly lagging behind that of white households. A full 25 percentage points, to be exact,” said Jovan Burton, executive director of the Partnership for Housing Affordability, a housing policy and education organization. Burton has served on the Amandla Fund’s leadership committee for two years, helping to lead the homeownership subcommittee.

The pilot program will assist 10 Black first-time home buyers who fall within 80% to 150% of the area median income range, providing down payment assistance grants, as well as pre- and post-purchase counseling.

The pilot will also function as a proof of concept for the Amandla Fund’s philanthropic strategy: If successful, the fund will look to scale the program to close the racial homeownership gap in Richmond by 2040.

“We are hopeful that learnings from this pilot will allow us to launch a larger program and catalyze more wealth-building opportunities for RVA families,” Greta J. Harris, CEO of Better Housing Coalition and an Amandla Fund board member, said in a statement.

The Amandla Fund, which emerged through collaboration among Richmond's SisterFund, Ujima Legacy Fund and the Community Foundation, aims to mobilize enduring investments aimed at advancing economic and racial justice for Richmond’s Black communities.

The funding follows recent findings of racial bias in mortgage loan practices at Navy Federal Credit Union, highlighting how prospective Black homeowners in the region have been left behind. Headquartered in Vienna, NFCU more frequently approved white borrowers making less than $62,000 than it did for Black borrowers making $140,000 or more.

Virginia has the third-highest share of U.S. veterans; nearly 130,000 of these 614,600 veterans are Black.

While the city’s Black homeownership rate fell by 6% between 2000 and 2017 in the wake of subprime lending, disproportionate foreclosures and then rapid investment activity, Burton said, the rate has recently begun to increase slightly.

A graphic shows the "mortgage ready" Black population in Richmond.
Freddie Mac
The Freddie Mac graphic shows Richmond's "mortgage ready" Black population.

According to data from Freddie Mac, the Richmond region has about 29,000 mortgage-ready Black households.

“This is a strong indication that the state of Black homeownership in Richmond is characterized by untapped potential,” Burton said. Through the pilot, he said, they aim “to help remove any barriers to unlock the wealth and opportunity that we all know exists here.”

These barriers could be anything from student loan or medical debt to simply not having enough saved for a down payment.

“We are trying to tap into the ‘mortgage-ready’ population identified by Freddie Mac,” Burton said.

The fund’s target population is Black residents whose income is too high to qualify for traditional assistance programs yet are still unable to achieve homeownership.

“Supporting 5,000 households into homeownership has the potential to increase Black family wealth through home equity by over $1 billion in the next 35 years,” Burton said.

Barry Greene Jr. is the Equitable Cities Reporting Fellow for Reparations Narratives.