The following testimony was delivered by Center president Julie Gugin in January 2023 at a public hearing before the Minnesota House Housing Finance and Policy Committee.

Prepared Testimony and Remarks
Julie Gugin, President, Minnesota Homeownership Center

Chair Howard and members of the Committee, my name is Julie Gugin. I am President of the non-profit Minnesota Homeownership Center.

We know that long-term homeownership builds wealth. Toward that end, the Minnesota Homeownership Center offers free advisor services and other resources to help with buying a home, and one-on-one assistance to prevent foreclosure when times are tough.

For nearly 30 years, the Center has worked to educate potential home buyers on the complicated process of qualifying for a mortgage, affording down payment and closing costs, and transitioning to sustainable homeownership. We’ve carried out this work by partnering with more than 30 community-based organizations throughout the state. Because homeownership is the main way that households in this country create wealth, we focus our outreach toward those who have traditionally been left out of the ownership space – households of color and lower income households. Last year, 64 percent of the households we served represented communities of color, and the median income of households served was just over $43,000. Of the more than 4,300 households served, approximately 70 percent were in the metro area, and 30 percent were in Greater Minnesota.

In a survey conducted on behalf of the Center just before the pandemic, more than half of non-owner respondents indicated they planned to buy a home within the next five years. But the uneven impact of COVID, rising home values and interest rates, and constrained inventory have created unprecedented barriers to the achievement of this aspiration, especially for those we work with. Coupled with historic racism and lingering systemic bias, we in Minnesota find ourselves living with one of the highest racial ownership gaps in the country – the ownership gap between white and black households here is nearly 50 percent. This is not acceptable. The Minnesota Homeownership Center is intent on reversing homeownership injustice and averting the threats posed by homeownership challenges to individual households, our communities and our collective economy.

It is in this spirit that I’m here today to speak in support of increased funding for Homeownership Education Counseling and Training, or HECAT, so that we can expand our network and services and reach even more of the aspiring home buyers facing the greatest barriers to ownership. We also seek support for HF12, our joint legislative proposal with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity and Minnesota Realtors, which would establish a first-generation home buyer down payment assistance fund. Vice Chair Agbaje is the House author for this bill, which, if enacted, would help to move 5,000 renter households into homeownership, and shift our racial homeownership gap from 5th worst in the nation to 11th worst.

Thank you all for your attention and I’d be happy to answer any questions at this time.