Banking and housing leaders discuss the future of affordable housing on a panel


Banking and housing professionals from across the country gathered at the Barnes & Thornburg LLP offices inside 100 Buckhead’s Tower Place Wednesday afternoon to discuss housing affordability and financial inclusion in the Atlanta metro area. .

Consisting of three separate panels, the event outlined initiatives that local banks, nonprofit organizations and other institutions can take to help narrow the racial gaps that pervade the city’s homeownership rates.

While homeownership served as a focus of discussion, the panels also covered the need for greater economic mobility among Atlanta’s minority populations, pointing to discrepancies in employment opportunities and social bias as contributing causes to the setback. financial.

Barry Wides, the deputy comptroller for community affairs at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in Washington, DC, said the issues of inequality in homeownership and financial inclusion are connected.

Wides leads an affordable homeownership group in Washington that specifically focuses on bridging the homeownership gap that separates minority groups from their white counterparts. Through a series of initiatives, Wides and the OCC work to provide more financial opportunities for low-income residents.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency also financially supports minority-owned banks and depository institutions to better benefit the minority markets they serve.

One of the organization’s largest initiatives is Project REACh, a multifaceted approach to improving financial inclusion in disadvantaged communities. Wides said the REACh Project prepares low-income individuals and families for homeownership and other financial milestones by increasing their access to credit and capital, two elements that serve as constraints on most large investments. The initiative brings together leaders in banking and technology, as well as government agencies and civil rights organizations.

“If you don’t have credit, and you can’t get credit because you haven’t had credit, it’s a bit of a circular process, and it’s a challenge for a lot of people, particularly recent immigrants, to get in now,” Wides said. So much of the work [that] Streams in our Project REACh initiative are also focused on encouraging banks to develop products and tools that help customers.”

Potential minority homebuyers face many obstacles when trying to increase equity. One of these obstacles, Wides said, is assessment bias. The appraisal industry is one of the most racially homogeneous, and Wides said one solution for minority families to get the pay they deserve for the homes they own is to diversify the workforce.

The disproportionate rise in house prices, combined with the general lack of supplies needed to build new homes, has exacerbated the looming housing crisis both locally and nationally.

Dan Magder, managing partner at Center Creek Capital, said the problem plaguing affordable housing is the fact that there isn’t enough of it.

Based in Washington, Center Creek Capital Group works to improve housing affordability in various markets across the country. The organization began establishing a presence in the southeastern United States with its most recent pair of housing funds, using it to buy dilapidated homes and convert them into profitable three-bedroom, two-bathroom single-family homes. Magder said Center Creek increases the supply of housing in underserved markets by making use of land and resources left vacant by developers.

“Our approach is scalable; we do it over and over and over again,” Magder said. “And we’re tapping into a part of the housing inventory that’s been overlooked because it was kind of hard to do.”

All Center Creek clients start out as rental tenants, but are given the opportunity to purchase the home they reside in after a set period of time. Tenants can also choose to rent for as long as they like. Magder said Center Creek also prepares its tenants for home ownership and financial stability by providing resources they can access at their leisure.

By contrast, the Atlanta Land Trust allows its clients to own their homes from the start, even though the land underneath remains under the ownership of the organization. If a homeowner wishes to eventually sell their home, they must comply with ALT’s request to sell the home to another low-income family while keeping the listing price affordable for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Amanda Rhein, executive director of the Atlanta Land Trust, said the community trust model allows the organization’s housing options to remain affordable year after year.

“That process just repeats itself over and over so that housing remains affordable in perpetuity,” Rhein said. “Within the land sale lease, there is a resale formula that allows the owner to participate in the appreciation of the equity value of the home, thus providing a limited opportunity for the creation of wealth, as well as the stability of home ownership”.

Another necessary action in the affordable housing development plan is to preserve the affordable housing options that are already available to the public. Robert Bachman, a senior director at Enterprise Community Partners, said allocating funds to ensure affordable housing remains affordable is crucial to keeping supply intact.

“We are still losing more affordable units each year than are being produced,” Bachman said. “So why think, ‘Well, we did a lot more’? It’s still not going to make up the difference.”
The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta assigned the Atlanta-Sandy Springs metropolitan area a housing affordability index of 67.8 in October of last year, the most recent data point on an affordability tracking chart since 2014. Homeowner Affordability Monitor new interactive home affordability

According to the bank, an index score of 100 or higher indicates that a metropolitan area or city has affordable affordable housing. The Federal Reserve Index first dipped below 100 in January of last year, in tandem with the national rise in mortgage rates following the all-time low percentages seen in the housing market throughout 2020 and 2021.


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