MReport April 2021

TheMReport — News and strategies for the evolving mortgage marketplace.

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M R EP O RT | 21 COVER FEATURE M // How does improving diversity, inclusion, and equity in the housing sector and at CBC Mortgage Agency impact the disparities in homeownership and related economic gap? CHRISTENSEN // The hip-hop culture adage "real recognizes real" is one of my favorite sayings. It means, "I recognize the honesty and integrity in you because you recognize it in me." If the mortgage industry at large recognizes the value of diversity, inclusivity, and equity within individual companies and their employees, then the industry will value these attributes in borrowers. If the mortgage industry increases its diversity, that will translate into diversifying the pool of borrowers. Slowly, over time, as more diverse individuals become homeowners, the racial wealth gap will decrease. At CBC Mortgage Agency, we truly value diversity within our work family and the unique upbringings, family structures, and life experiences every employee brings to our company. Each employee at CBCMA plays an important role in providing down payment assistance (DPA) to our borrowers. Our mission is to provide DPA to as many creditworthy borrowers as possible. To date, over 55% of our borrowers are minorities. These are people of color who would be unable to become homeowners without the assistance we provide. By purchasing a home, and beginning to grow equity through that home, our customers are creating intergenerational wealth for their families. One borrower at a time, we are slowly and sustainably doing our part to decrease the racial wealth gap. M // What personal experiences have sparked your interest in Black homeownership? CHRISTENSEN // You can trace homeownership in my family all the way back to 1860—my great, great, great grandfather was the first homeowner in our family. He started amassing property after the Emancipation Proclamation, after he was freed from being a slave. When he died, he owned 50 acres of land, and he left a home for each one of his eight children. I didn't realize how unique our family story is up until, really, the last decade, but he set the precedent for homeownership in our family and that has been the standard throughout the generations. So much so that my great grandmother, who I talk about all the time—this was not actually her relatives, but it was her deceased husband—she refused to be the only person in the family lineage who did not own a home. So, as a widow with four young boys, she managed to buy her own house in North Carolina and to keep it going throughout the family. Everybody in my family is a homeowner. Everyone in my family has gone to college. We are all professionals—doctors, business owners. I am one of the only people in my family without a master's degree. We are highly educated because of his decision to acquire property. From that one choice he made, all the way down the line. So, when I got into the mortgage industry in 2002 and I realized that the Black homeownership rate was so dismal, that was disturbing and deeply upsetting to me. I dedicated my career to increasing homeownership in the Black community because I do not want my story to be an anomaly. I want it to be the norm for our communities of color. *Data from the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances show a median household wealth for white families of about $188,000, compared with $36,000 among Latino families and $24,000 for Black families. "Slowly over time, as more diverse individuals become homeowners, the racial wealth gap will decrease."

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