U.S. Bank recently partnered with the nonprofit through its Access Home initiative to help increase Black homeownership in Milwaukee.
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, only 27% of homeowners are Black, according to 2019 data from the Wisconsin Policy Forum. It’s one of the lowest percentages in the country and a topic that has garnered local and national headlines.
Acts Housing is one organization working to change those headlines and increase the number of Black homeowners. It provides one-on-one and online, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-approved homebuyer and financial counseling for individuals and families to help them become ready to buy.
“There are lot of programs like ours or similar but not everyone is certified,” explained Claire Britcliffe, marketing director for Acts Housing. “Our coaches have a lot of expertise and have to go through HUD training to be able to do what they do for us.”
Last year, Acts Housing helped 305 homeowners purchase a home, with Black buyers making up nearly half of that total (145). U.S. Bank recently partnered with the organization through its U.S. Bank Access Home initiative – part of U.S. Bank Access Commitment™, the bank’s long-term approach to building wealth and redefining how it serves diverse customers and create more opportunities for diverse employees. Together, U.S. Bank and Acts will provide financial education programs to help hopeful homebuyers move closer to their goal of moving in to their first home.
“Homeownership is a cornerstone of wealth building, and for too long now there has been a gap for Black families. We, along with Acts and other partners across the country, are looking to change this,” said Lenny McNeill, executive vice president, Strategic Markets and Affordable Lending for U.S. Bank. “Everyone deserves the right to own a safe and affordable home. We're excited to see the impact our partnership with Acts can have on Milwaukee and the broader community."
An educational, group approach with 1:1 coaching
Through the Acts Housing Homebuyer Power Pack, a cohort of nearly 140 potential homebuyers will learn about what credit is, why it’s important, how to establish and maintain good credit and the ins and outs of credit scoring. They’ll also have access to experts on goal setting and managing their money, among other topics over the course of 12 months.
Acts anticipates not everyone in the cohort will complete all 12 months of workshops, given some people come in at different stages of preparedness. Those homebuyers that do complete all 12 courses will earn $1,000 toward paying off debt or a down payment.
“The feedback has been great and really positive. I think that people like that they are doing it with a cohort of others,” said Britcliffe. “I think people get embarrassed talking about credit and debt. I think it just helps to know you're not going through this alone. We're here to support. The banks are here to support and you're going through with a group of like-minded people together.”
The cohort meets virtually for the weekly workshops to help accommodate schedules and remove as many barriers as possible for participation. They also have Spanish speaking coaches to accommodate Milwaukee’s large Hispanic population.
“Buying a house is hard enough without being able to do it in your native tongue,” said Britcliffe.
U.S. Bank relationship builds on foundation of longtime resource
While work on U.S. Bank Access Home with Acts may be new, the partnership between the two organizations is not. Together we have worked to advance homeownership in Milwaukee for over two decades. The past 26 years, Acts has helped more than 3,200 families purchase homes. Still, Briffcliffe says the partnership means a lot.
“We're a small group and I think when we partner with a big bank and recognized name, it gives us some recognition and authority. U.S. Bank has been a really good partner giving us the expertise and helping us through the new program.”
U.S. Bank Access Home provides access to financial education and resources towards homeownership to Black consumers in five initial markets, where the disparities are the largest, such as Milwaukee. The initiative includes a $3 million investment over the course of the next three years.
To learn more about Acts Housing, visit actshousing.org.
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