When it comes to building wealth in the U.S., the discussion cannot begin without the topic of homeownership.
The Washington Post reports that the pattern for homeownership and generational wealth building for Black families is broken.
“In the first quarter of 2020, 44 percent of Black families owned their home, compared with 73.7 percent of white families,” as per the report by Census Bureau.
In cities like Minneapolis, the width of the gap is grappling with just 25 percent of Black families who own a home in comparison to 76 percent of whites — the widest gap in the U.S. cities with over 1 million residents, according to a study conducted by Redfin real estate brokerage.
AJ Barkley is the SVP of Neighborhood Lending at Bank of America with a mission to change the gap when it comes to Black homeownership through her focus on helping multicultural and first-time homebuyers begin to work toward building long-term generational wealth
Bringing in over two decades of experience and a passion for helping others to achieve their goals of homeownership, we chatted with AJ about how it helps to build generational wealth, how she’s using her platform to change the narrative of Black homeownership, and what about her role brings her the most joy.
How does homeownership help to build generational wealth?
AJ Barkley: Historically, homeownership has been a catalyst for building generational wealth. Owning a home allows you to “pay yourself” vs. paying a landlord. Over time those mortgage payments allow you to build equity. That, coupled with the potential increases in property values helps build wealth.
This is so important, especially for the Black community, can you share how your platform aims to change the narrative of homeownership for people who look like us?
AJ Barkley: Affordable housing is a key pillar of Bank of America’s $1 billion, four-year initiative to help advance racial equality and economic opportunity. Access to safe, affordable housing is essential to increasing economic mobility and reducing inter-generational and childhood poverty. This commitment is one demonstration of our work to address disparities in the communities we serve.
This year, as part of our $1 billion commitment, we partnered with the Smithsonian to create a dialogue about important issues like racial injustice. With our funding, the Smithsonian is launching a “Race, Community and Our Shared Future” initiative, which will explore how Americans currently understand, experience, and confront race, its impact on communities, and how that impact is shaping the nation’s future.
Within our company, we have had a program called ‘courageous conversations’ for a long time. Through this program, we speak with our associates about challenging social issues and how we are facing them as leaders and associates. We are also deeply committed to creating an inclusive culture. We’re proud that we’ve exceeded our five-year goal of hiring 10,000 teammates from neighborhoods that we serve and are providing them with the skills and training to join our organization.
Shoutout to Bank of America for making such bold moves to shift the homeownership narrative, can you tell me what about the entire process of helping others to be successful in this space that brings you joy?
AJ Barkley: I’ve been with Bank of America for over 20 years, and I have been a champion of affordable housing my entire career. Owning a home is one of the best ways to create economic mobility. My biggest focus is on helping multicultural, first-time homebuyers and low- and moderate-income clients. Recently, Bank of America expanded our affordable homeownership initiative from $5B to $15B through 2025 to help 60,000 people purchase homes. Our programs can provide up to $17,500 in down payment and closing cost grants to assist with upfront housing costs. Thousands of eligible clients have taken advantage of these programs and have received an average of $14,000 toward the purchase of a home.
Because homeownership offers so much potential, I’m committed to helping younger customers get started. Recently, I worked with Her Agenda to host a virtual panel discussion on debunking homeownership myths and clearing up questions that make homeownership seem unattainable. The questions I received from the Her Agenda audience prove there is a great deal of interest in this topic, and people are online with key questions about how to buy a home or get ready to buy one in the future. To make that easier, we’ve created all-in-one digital solutions such as Life Plan and Digital Mortgage Experience, where people can find information and create profiles to help them save, build credit, and eventually buy, all from their phone or computer.
That’s so amazing! Lastly, can you give us your 3 key takeaways when it comes to homeownership?
AJ Barkley: The journey toward homeownership – whatever your timeline may be – actually begins with your first banking experience and continues as you learn to 1) budget, 2) save, and 3) build a solid credit history, all of which will set you up for success once you’re ready to buy.