The following testimony was delivered by former homeownership advisor Portia Jackson at a remote public hearing held in March 2022 before the Minnesota House Housing Finance and Policy Committee. Center President Julie Gugin testified as well.
Prepared Testimony and Remarks
Portia Jackson, First-Generation Homeowner
Chairperson Housman and Members of the Committee, my name is Portia Jackson, and I am a mother and first-generation homeowner in north Minneapolis.
I am here today to offer my personal testimony from that perspective. For the record, I work as a Community Development Specialist for Ramsey County. I have been asked by the County to add that Ramsey County supports HF 1635, and the goals behind this bill. I’d also like to thank you, Chairperson Hausman, for introducing this bill.
Ten years ago, homeownership was not in my purview. I had a Section 8 voucher for nine years and thought that that would be how my housing story would go forever. But then I went in for recertification in the program and found out that my rent portion had increased to $1,200 per month as I had finished my bachelor’s degree, and my earnings had increased greatly. I decided to voluntarily remove myself from the program, and I rented a home on the open rental market.
For a couple of years, I rented a nice home in south Minneapolis for a little over $1,500 per month. One day, as I was writing my rent check, I thought: I am paying my landlord’s mortgage…I should be paying my own. So, I decided to research how I could buy a house.
My goal was to purchase a home that was big enough for my large family, close to mass transit and at a payment that was less than what I was paying to rent. I needed the guidance of someone that understood my goal and could break down what I needed to do in order to get there. I found the Minnesota Homeownership Center’s website, which helped me find PRG – a housing advising agency in my neighborhood. I met with Erin, who helped me develop a plan to improve my credit, save money for a down payment and pointed me to a culturally specific financial literacy education program offered by Build Wealth Minnesota. I paid off things on my credit, saved money and obtained a MHFA mortgage loan to purchase my home, which I closed on on July 31, 2015.
I could not have done this without the knowledge and expertise of my homeownership advisor, Erin. Homeownership advisors bridge the gap for those who want to buy a home, but do not know where to start. They not only walk you through the entire homebuying process, they also take your individual situation into account and assist you in creating a plan to get you where you want to be. They are there every step of the way, all the way through closing and beyond.
I found this work to be so important that I became a homeownership advisor myself in 2016. I’m still in the homeownership field today, working to decrease the racial homeownership gap in Minnesota.
I have been a homeowner for almost seven years. Since purchasing, two of my children have graduated from high school, started careers and businesses, excelled in school and become immersed in our neighborhood. Homeownership has become the foundation for the future of our family, and my hope is that more families will be able to make their homeownership dreams a reality. In order to do that, we will need a concentrated effort through education and advising, down payment assistance and the building of entry-level homes.