New Houston-area initiative hopes to make homeownership affordable for people of color

Wells Fargo is giving Harris County $7.5 million in grant money to go towards making homeownership affordable for communities of color.


Michael Hagerty

Wells Fargo is giving Harris County $7.5 million in grant money to go towards making homeownership affordable for communities of color.

The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Houston and the Harris County Homeownership Collaborative (HCHC) has launched a new initiative aimed to make homeownership more affordable for communities of color.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Wells Fargo's grant will help Houston continue with current projects, that include building more than 3,000 single family homes.

"Currently we have developments at Stella Link, CityScape, Third Ward, Acres Home, Robins Landing, Old Spanish Trail, South Union, MLK," Turner said. "With more to be added even still."

Tuner says that is 1,253 affordable homes for income certified Houstonians and 601 market rate homes, with another 900 affordable homes are projected to be built.

During the pandemic Lorena Garcia worked with the Tejano Center for Community Concerns, which partners with LISC Houston, and was able to purchase a home in January.

"I was faced with many challenges, the market was very demanding, it was moving very quickly," Garcia explained. "However, finding a home in a neighborhood where my two daughters could feel safe motivated me and my husband to push through every obstacle that we were faced with."

Garcia is Hispanic and according to the 2022 Kinder Houston area survey, a quarter of Houstonians struggle to pay their mortgage or rent and 37% of those who struggle are Hispanic. For African Americans, the number is 40%, and for whites it is 17%.

"The market had increased twice as badly, making it for the average family very difficult," Garcia said. "Making lenders very skeptical to loan money to Hispanics or just anyone or even just average communities."

Kinder research suggests that between 2020 and 2021 the city's total single-family home sales volume increased 34%, and it has doubled in the past 8 years. Single-family houses have had the shortest median inventory length of all housing types in both Houston and Harris County since 2016.

"It makes a difference when you are able to own your home and children can grow up and be a part of it and for Black and brown communities and communities of color and people of color," Turner added. "That hasn’t been an easy hurdle to overlook, so we need to reverse that through either down payment assistance or closing costs."

Houston's median sales price neared $350,000 in 2021. The median sales price increased by 10% in Houston and 16% in Harris County. For those like Garcia, it can be achievable.

"As a homeowner, for those who have the same dreams that my husband and I have," Garcia said. "Don't be discouraged the number one step if you are ready to embark in this process is to educate yourself. The Tejano Center helped me balance a budget, made sure we knew how to manage our savings and how to make it possible."

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