By Brittney Johnson, AFRO Intern

Wells Fargo hosted a community conversation with leaders in the city of Baltimore on June 26. The conversation included a plan to advance homeownership in the city of Baltimore through their new NeighborhoodLIFT program.

The LIFT program will launch in Baltimore in July, and allow potential homeowners to shop around for mortgage rates and actively search for homes. Once applicants have enrolled in one 8hr homeownership counseling session. Applicants are then urged to begin the process of shopping for their first home.

“We are engaging with our partners to let them know what the program is about and how through homeownership, we can ultimately increase the amount of wealth in the city of Baltimore,” said Wells Fargo Vice President of Diverse Segments for home mortgage Donna Green.

The LIFT program promotes inclusion and community wealth within communities through homeownership in the city of Baltimore, by offering qualifying applicants grants totaling $15,000.  Grants are totaling $17,500 for teachers, veterans, service members, emergency medical technicians, law enforcement and firefighters.

These grants would be applied toward the down payment for a home of their choosing. However, applicants have to purchase homes in the city of Baltimore.

Homeownership in the city of Baltimore, and in the Black community, currently is a race against time. With overrun project housing, and little-to-no knowledge of homeownership management, many times homes are left under foreclosure. Blacks are still pushing for more transparency from lenders and brokers when shopping to purchase a home.

“ We at Savage Homegroup offer monthly home buyers workshops where we go over the entire process with potential prospective clients,” Keller Williams Agent, Brandee Davis said.

“We provide them a list of people in the community, they have a representative from a title company, inspection, and loan officers, who run credit reports at the workshop. Perspective clients are then given one-on-one advice, and being really transparent with people about what to expect, especially for folks of color…”

NeighborhoodLIFT also has a list of approved lenders, to which applicants can compare interest rates. Not only can applicants decide to choose from Wells Fargo, NeighborhoodLIFT, will also work with Bank of America, Suntrust Bank, Chase and MECU Credit Union.

“Owning a home is widely believed to be the best way for working and middle class Americans to build wealth. And for many African-Americans, the dream of homeownership remains an elusive one,” according to NPR national desk reporter, Brakkton Booker.

That may not be the case with the LIFT program it will then connect homebuyers with a network of organizations throughout the city to help educate, encourage and promote healthy financial decisions. There are many different approved housing counselors to choose from- Belair-Edison Neighborhoods, Druid Heights Community Development and Latino Economic Development Inc., just to name a few.

“Homeownership is important in the African American community because it increases our financial wealth and gives Black people more of a voice in their community,” Kim Bland of the Women’s Housing Coalition said. Bland continued, “homeownership would help decrease poverty and increase family connection.”

“This was my mom’s home and it was passed down to me, and I plan to give to my children. important to me to keep in my family because it was last wishes.” Reginald Carter, 52, said.

Neighbor-works and NeighborhoodLIFT have been operating in many states across the nation to provide first time homebuyers a chance to make home buying simple, supported and reliable. However there is an income threshold that will determine whether or not applicants are eligible for the program.

That threshold for potential homeowners whose annual income is anywhere between $75,500 to $99,700. However, you may not be eligible if you make over or below the threshold. If NeighborhoodLIFT were to offer assistance to potential homeowners over the threshold, how would they do it? What would it look like?

A homeowner in Charles Village, Kidar Swine, 42,  said, “As a homeowner making over the threshold, could help with renovations to increase the value of a potential home. the program could help in that way.”

“Where the qualifications are, if certain homes going for a certain amount the grant could be used to improve the property value of homes in certain neighborhoods, lowering the neighborhood value to improve different communities,” Swine continued.

The Baltimore NeighborhoodLIFT program launch event will take place Friday, July 19 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday, July 20 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Residents and potential homeowners are urged to apply.