Milan Griffin, vice president of marketing and outreach for HomeFree-USA ; and Robert Kirkland, vice president of divisional community and affordable lending manager for JPMorgan Chase.
By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
Homeownership has long been considered a method for people to build wealth, especially for low-income and minority communities. As June is recognized as National Homeownership Month, JPMorgan Chase has been doubling down on its efforts to connect communities to affordable housing through partnerships, grants and most recently, a philanthropic commitment to Black and LatinX households.
“This is a time where we can be extremely intentional about our activities,” said Robert Kirkland, vice president of divisional community and affordable lending manager for JPMorgan Chase. “My team on community work throughout the year, but this month reminds us of the importance of homeownership and how we can connect with communities, especially in times that we are in now where affordability is becoming a reality for a lot of people.”
One way racism has been exercised, historically, is through putting communities of color at an economic disadvantage, and the housing industry has not been immune to this. According to Kirkland, there is about a 25% gap between the homeownership rate of the African-American and LatinX communities and their White counterparts, which has created a significant housing disparity.
One way JPMorgan Chase is trying to bridge this gap is through “Path Forward,” a $30 billion commitment over the next five years to combat the racial inequities and housing gaps that exist in the United States. More recently, the firm announced that $400 million of Path Forward will be used for low-cost loans, equity, and grants targeted to nonprofits and other organizations that help African Americans and LatinX households access affordable housing.
One of the grants that is a part of the Path Forward commitment provides $5,000 to help home buyers cover their down payments and closing costs, one of the biggest barriers to homeownership, according to Kirkland. Buyers can also gain an additional $500 to take a home buyer education class.
“Over the next five years, with our Path Forward commitment focused on home lending, we’re hoping to serve 40,000 new homeowners that are considered to be African American and/or LatinX, and then we’re also trying to support those existing homeowners, up to 20,000 of them, in those same communities to take advantage of the lower interest rates that they have today, so that they can put themselves in a better financial position moving forward,” said Kirkland.
However, education must come first when it comes to buying a home, and HomeFree-USA, one of JPMorgan Chase’s philanthropic grantees, is helping to equip buyers with knowledge so that they can confidently achieve homeownership. The nonprofit, which was established in 1994, is Black and woman-owned. It counsels new homebuyers on their mortgage options and guides current homeowners through refinancing and accessible mortgage workout options.
“Homeownership education and homeownership preparation is truly the key that will help our community to unlock homeownership because we will be educated and understand how to do it,” said Milan Griffin, vice president of marketing and outreach for HomeFree-USA.
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