Denver Social Equity Program Aims to Increase BIPOC Homeownership

It is one of Denver’s goals to increase the number of BIPOC owners from 41% to 45% by 2026.

DENVER — The City of Denver has launched a new housing program that aims to increase homeownership in communities of color. the Metro deposit assistance (metroDPA) social equity program offers homeowners either $15,000 or $25,000 depending on their income level and approval from the Department of Housing Stability. The assistance program is for people who lived or are descendants of families who lived in Denver’s gated neighborhoods from 1938 to 2000.

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“Redlining was a risk assessment by banks and government institutions to say where was a safe and good investment,” Denver Housing Stability Executive Director Britta Fisher said. “Unfortunately, these were very racially categorized and it made it an exclusive habit of not giving loans to Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC) at all or only in certain neighborhoods which really separated our communities further. “

The program is for families earning up to $150,000 per year and a credit score above 640. Applicants can receive up to 5% of the mortgage for the down payment without interest. Fisher said the loan is forgivable, so an applicant doesn’t have to repay the loan if they stay in the house for more than three years.

“There is a lot of wrong that has happened in the past and every day we can do something to make it a little bit [righter], we want to do it,” Fisher said. “We have a stubbornly low minority homeownership rate and so our Black, Indigenous and People of Color just aren’t moving that needle on homeownership and we want to do more every day to see that change. »

A 2018 study from the Urban Institute showed that the Denver metro area has a nearly 32% gap between white and black homeowners. Fisher said one of the city’s main goals is to increase the number of BIPOC owners from 41% to 45% by 2026.

“The program isn’t going to close the big discrepancies and disparities that we see, but we think it’s an important first step when we still have work to do,” Fisher said.

Town and Country Realty is one of Colorado’s oldest black-owned real estate companies. Muriel Williams-Thompson., a broker there, said the program is a step in the right direction.

“There’s a lot of demand for the number of people looking for properties, so if that’s the case, then those who actually have the most money and the highest credit scores are the ones going. actually win the properties at the end of the day,” she says.

Williams-Thompson said she’s glad programs like that exist and that their message of wanting more BIPOC homeownership in Colorado is being heard.

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“That’s why we exist, we serve these families,” Williams-Thompson said. “A lot of these families don’t come with generational wealth, so it pushes them out, it makes it difficult.”

Denver resident Dontraell Starks is just one of the people this program could help.

“It’s hard, it’s very frustrating,” he said. “I searched for years but it honestly never works, it never works.”

Starks has been looking for a bigger home for his family of seven for the past decade. He and his family live in a three-bedroom house in Park Hill. He said that even though he had an 800 credit score, he had difficulty getting a home loan.

“At the end of the day, it always comes down to ‘You can’t qualify for this’ or ‘The money you have hasn’t been in the bank long enough,'” Starks said. “That’s all these different excuses when we know what the real excuse is – it’s because you’re black.

Starks was one of the first applicants to receive a loan under the new program. His grandparents lived in the Whittier neighborhood at 1533 30th Avenue. He said social equity programs like these are only part of solving the problem.

“I appreciate the help, I’ll take all the help I can get, but really it’s just not enough, but it’s a good step. It’s a good first step,” Starks said.

Depending on the city, homeowners can use the funds for a down payment or closing costs to buy a home anywhere in the metroDPA-approved Front Range. Their goal is to level the playing field for homeownership opportunities in all Denver communities.

“Fairness is a core value for the City of Denver and we make decisions with our budget and with programs like this to align our values ​​and say, ‘We don’t want the race to predict outcomes any more. housing,” Fisher said. “So this is a good first step with our metroDPA social equity program to advance minority homeownership.”

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