By Cassandra Garibay
The Fresno Bee
White Fresno County residents own homes at about two-and-a-half times the rate of Black residents in the county — but a nonprofit is hoping to curb the disparity between the two by increasing financial literacy education and dispelling home-ownership myths in primarily-Black communities.
“The information regarding home ownership is not really trickling down to the people that need to know it,” Realtist of Fresno County President, Lionel Akpovi, said.
Realtist of Fresno County is a local chapter of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, which was born out of the Civil Rights era with the mission of improving “democracy in housing,” Akpovi said.
The local chapter was formed in 2019 after Akpovi and other local real estate professionals saw a need to increase home ownership among Black people in the area, as a means to increase generational wealth.
As of March, the local chapter has 14 members.
“We believe homeownership is a focal point of generational wealth,” Akpovi wrote in a followup email to The Bee. “Homeownership provides stability, independence and the opportunity to build wealth.”
While other Realtist chapters existed in California, none were close enough to provide resources locally, Akpovi said.
HOME OWNERSHIP IN FRESNO COUNTY
Only around 27% of Black Fresno County residents are homeowners, according to the Advancement Project California’s Race Counts. In comparison, 66% of white county residents own homes.
Akpovi said the gap in home ownership can be tied to systemic and historic policy issues, including redlining and loan practices.
“Many of these families in underserved communities have never even owned a home,” Akpovi said. “They’ve been renting for generations, so really home ownership is not a talking point in those homes.”
Akpovi said while the issue is prominent in Fresno County, the Central Valley is not alone in this struggle.
According to NAREB’s State of Housing in Black America 2020 report, data from the U.S. Census projected about 47% of Black people in the United States are homeowners — whereas the rate is around 76% for white people.
The SHIBA report found that Black applicants are more than twice as likely to have their loan applications rejected and Black borrowers tend to have higher interest rates for US Federal Housing Administration backed mortgage loans, along with a myriad of other disadvantages.
Additionally, a 2020 Greenlining Institute study found that Black and Latino loan originators were underrepresented in Fresno County.
Only 2.6% of the home loan originators in Fresno County were Black, according to the study.
WHAT RESOURCES REALTIST OFFERS
Realtist of Fresno County offers classes on a range of topics related to becoming or being a home owner both to industry professionals and the public, according to Akpovi.
“Our job is to really dismiss a lot of those myths out there,” Akpovi said. “Even currently, you still have a lot of people out there who believe that you have to put 20% down to own a home, and that’s not the case, and it hasn’t been for a long time.”
Akpovi said some of the materials for the courses the Realist offers are free to the public, depending on the course.
So far this year, Realtist of Fresno County has hosted two virtual classes — one about the COVID-19 housing impact and another about virtual marketing.
The nonprofit hosted a financial literacy course at Edison High School in hopes of teaching younger generations about the steps they can take to be home owners, Akpovi said. The group also sponsors children at Edison Bethune Charter Academy and assists in community events.
“Our local chapter’s mission is to empower home ownership through education and community engagement,” Akpovi said.
Future events and information regarding Realtist can be found on their Facebook page.