Deep experience in the affordable housing space has prepared her well to lead the state’s efforts to reduce the racial homeownership gap.
In January of this year, Kayla Schuchman was hired as Minnesota Housing’s next Assistant Commissioner for Single Family Housing. Ms. Schuchman took over the position from Kasey Kier, who left the Agency last fall to join Bell Bank as its first National Community Development Manager. Bill Gray recently sat down with Ms. Schuchman for an episode of the Welcome Home Podcast to learn more about her work leading the Single Family division.
Schuchman is no stranger to affordable housing policy, having most recently served as Housing Director for the City of St. Paul. Among other accomplishments during her tenure with the City, she oversaw implementation of a new housing trust fund. Her career also has included stints as an affordable housing developer at Common Bond Communities, and work with the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority. “I’ve always had a passion for affordable housing,” Schuchman says. “Work in this area has a lot of potential to benefit the community in multiple ways, and is key to solving many of the larger challenges we collectively face.”
Schuchman shares that she grew up in a family ‘without a lot of money.’ “I saw first-hand what it looks like for families that work incredibly hard, and yet can’t get ahead. I also saw what happens when you get some help and stable housing. From my own experience, I learned that housing is foundational for everything else in life.” She adds, “By definition, life experience guides us in our work. This includes policymakers, and we need to make sure we have the full variety of life experiences at the policy table if we want to truly affect positive progress. Disparities are handed down from generation to generation if they’re not addressed.”
Schuchman has been an active participant in the Homeownership Opportunity Alliance (HOA) for several years, and she’s now one of two official co-convenors of the group (along with Homeownership Center President Julie Gugin) by virtue of her work leading Minnesota Housing’s Single Family division. “The HOA was created to convene all of the various partners out there who are in a position to impact the racial homeownership gap in our state,” she says. “So loan officers, Realtors®, nonprofits and government agencies working in homeownership – each of these parties has a role to play in working to identify systemic issues and call them out so we can flag them for change.” Over the last two years, the HOA has done exactly this with the issue of buyer ‘love letters’ as a potential opportunity for racism on the part of sellers (Minnesota Realtors® now advises its members to refuse these letters from potential buyers) and a study on the potential impact of streamlined and expanded down payment assistance (the Center, Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity and Minnesota Realtors® proposed legislation in the wake of this study earlier this year). “The racial homeownership gap was created as a result of specific policies and practices over a span of decades,” says Schuchman. “We’re still stuck with the legacy of these policies, and moving past this legacy will require system and practice changes that are just as intentional.”
As readers of the Welcome Home blog have heard here many times, homeownership is the most common way that households build generational wealth in this county. Schuchman says this guides her in her work. “Minnesota Housing tracks the homeownership gap very closely,” she says. “Recently, we set a strategic goal to increase our lending to first-time buyer BIPOC households to 40 percent by 2023. So we’ve talked about it, looked at it, analyzed it, etc… Now we’ve set a measurable goal. And our lending is on track – that’s real progress. Forty percent of our first-time mortgages are going to people of color. That’s about double the broader market. And we’re already asking what’s next and how do we maintain our momentum as the market changes”