Central Florida group to launch new initiative to bridge racial gap in homeownership
A group of organizations dedicated to bridging the racial gap in Central Florida’s homeownership finished its planning phase Friday.
The BIPOC Housing Initiative met at Barnett Park’s Recreation Center in Orlando to set up implementation for this fall in October.
What is it?
BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and the initiative was started by Wells Fargo and picked up by Bright Community Trust, a housing nonprofit committed to affordable housing projects.
According to BCT, when it comes to homeownership, there’s an inequity in our area.
“Of White households, 73% are homeowners, but of BIPOC households, only 52% are homeowners,” the website said. “Clearly, there is a vast chasm of lost wealth-building opportunities for BIPOC residents, as well as missing other vital intergenerational benefits of homeownership.”
Dozens of members of the BIPOC Initiative showed up to the meeting — the third and last of Phase 1, planning. After nine months of exhaustive discussions, they are now ready to move into Phase 2, implementing actionable solutions to the current existing systemic barriers that keep people of color at a disadvantage.
The goal is to get 5,000 BIPOC-owned homes in the next five years, with 400 as a target for the first year. Traci Blue, director of strategic community initiatives at BCT, said they know it’s a hefty goal, but the group is confident in their ability to mobilize their connections and resources.
"This is a very big project with a lot of moving parts. It is a very aggressive agenda. The way we’re going to do it is collaboration,” Blue said. “I don’t think any one organization could do it. It’s going to take the power of community.”
How will it work?
At the meeting, several challenges were pointed out, such as appealing to contributors and supporters who are not familiar or sympathetic with BIPOC issues, handling the impending influx of applications, and retaining volunteer manpower.
One of the key goals, BCT President Frank Wells said, will be centralizing already-available resources to become a one-stop shop for a smooth path to homeownership.
“One of the biggest things that we found is, a lot of resources to help people into homeownership are out there, but they’re scattered all over the place; you have to know they’re there,” he said. “All those pieces have to come together for people. Every step along the way there is a potential place that people might misstep and not make it all the way to homeownership.”
The group might change its name to appeal to a broader base. For now, the BIPOC Initiative has stirred passion in its members and in the organizations that have joined.
What’s in it for the community?
Wells said it’s important to keep in mind why homeownership matters.
“A family who owns a home has some equity, they have savings for a rainy day,” he said. “We also know that kids of homeowners have better educational outcomes; they move less. Same for the parents in the workforce; more housing stability translates into more success.”
The program will work through coaches who will volunteer to mentor applicants and see them through the rigorous process of getting the keys to their own homes. The organization and pairing of these individuals will be the backbone of the project.
The program involves taking advantage of existing assistance, such as first-time homebuyers, down payment assistance, finding higher-paying jobs, and financial literacy education.
“The design of this initiative helps people get through those challenges,” Blue said. “I need to find all the other people that get it and want to work with us to make a difference.”
Lillian Hernández Caraballo is a Report for America corps member.