The Housing nonprofit, Homestead Community Land Trust, hosted a seminar on Sept. 22 with housing advocates from municipal government and financial institutions who advocated for a greater focus on increasing home ownership in communities in King County.
Mark Santos-Johnson, the community development & housing manager for the City of Renton, said the value of housing in King County markets is growing at rate much higher than what many working families can afford, risking the displacement of folks in these communities, particularly for low income demographics and people of color.
“People that work in the community should be able to afford to live there.” Santos-Johnson said.
A strategy commonly taken by local governments is to subsidize the development of affordable rental housing. Santos-Johnson said this method is problematic because it leaves certain individuals and families to only aspire to be lifetime tenets instead of homeowners. He said homeownership is important because it helps build wealth and economic mobility, especially for BIPOC communities.
Corporate Responsibility Specialist at JPMorgan Chase’s Office of Nonprofit Engagement, Carla Strickland, said homeownership is good for the entire economy. She said homeownership is “crucial” in building the strength and stability of a community, and allows for the accrual of intergenerational wealth.
President and Chief Executive Officer of Verity Credit Union, Tonita Webb, said homeownership in general is heading in the wrong direction thanks to a housing market that has priced out many lower-income homebuyers. She said after decades of policies and financial practices that were decided to exclude certain communities and demographics from homeownership, many BIPOC community members do not see owning a home as something they could feasibly achieve.
Webb said equity, in this case, requires a “breaking of the system” and the policies that created the market we are currently in. She said financial institutions need to change how they view risk and to “stop calling communities risky” and to instead begin investing in them.
During the seminar, all three of the industry insiders advocated for increased partnership between public and private agencies in order to provide subsidized housing for families to own, rather than to rent.