A quick look at three of the unsung heroes on the frontlines of making homeownership accessible to those historically left behind

This month on the Welcome Home blog, we take a look at the Homeownership Advisor profession through the experiences of three Advisors working in the Twin Cities. But before we begin, a quick refresher – the Minnesota Homeownership Center is a nonprofit HUD Intermediary overseeing a network of forty-plus community-based organizations across the state delivering the Center’s Home Stretch homebuyer education curriculum, as well as one-on-one homeownership advisory and foreclosure counseling services. Advisors are certified by the Center, and must participate in annual continuing education in order to maintain this certification.

Ayan Abdinur (above left) is a Homeownership Advisor at African Development Center (ADC) in Minneapolis, where she serves as program manager for homebuyer education. She teaches homebuyer education classes, delivers one-on-one financial coaching and advises clients on how to become ‘mortgage ready.’ ADC serves a largely East African and Somali clientele, and Abdinur is one of the few Advisors in the Center’s network who speaks fluent Somali – a critical factor in adequately meeting the needs of Minnesota’s second largest foreign-born population. Abdinur herself was a middle-schooler when she and her family moved here, and she knows first-hand the struggles and challenges that refugees face. “I love to see my community prosper,” she says. “I grew up as a refugee, and my family was offered a lot of helping hands along the way. Now I can offer my own helping hand to others.”

Abdinur explains that one of the biggest challenges for Somali immigrants is understanding the American finance system. “Once an individual understands what a credit score is, how it works and what factors impact it, they’re much better positioned to navigate successfully in our American system,” she says. Abdinur recounts helping one Somali family as they navigated their way to successful homeownership over a three-year period. “When they closed on their home, that made me so happy,” she says. “They were an eleven-person household who spoke no English and really needed help figuring out how things are done in this country when it comes to buying a home. Now they’re building wealth and creating a foundation for future success!”

Not too far away, Henry Rucker (above center) conducts his work at Project for Pride in Living (PPL). Rucker is lead homeownership and financial coach at the organization, which focuses on affordable housing and career readiness for low income households. He’s a strong believer in the transformative power of wealth creation and transfer to the next generation. “My father raised me to be a saver,” he says. “He made sure I was putting money away from the moment I got my first job.”

Rucker started his career in banking, but eventually transitioned to financial coaching and advising which he saw as an avenue to help more people than he would have been able to in his original field. “Day to day living can be super stressful if your finances are in disarray,” he says. “But once you understand how finances work, how credit scores are determined and how budgeting is important, much of that stress can go away. Getting control of your finances allows you to achieve big goals, including homeownership. You can garden, your kids can play in the yard, and you can feel proud that you own something that can be passed along to them later in life.” Rucker recounts helping several actual coworkers who didn’t think homeownership was possible for them. “These people – a single mom, a single dad, a family with five kids – they all went from an apartment to owning, while paying less and having more stability. Sometimes the process took several years, but they stayed the course and succeeded. They never gave up on their dream.”

Over in St. Paul, Roxanny Armendariz (above right) works as a financial counselor and educator with Neighborhood Development Alliance (NeDA), an organization working closely with the Twin Cities’ Latino population. NeDA serves many recent immigrants with no prior knowledge of U.S. financial processes or responsibilities. “I love the fact that I can help others and get paid for it,” Armendariz says. “When I came to the U.S., I didn’t understand finances myself. As I learned how the system worked, I found I loved it. Dilemmas disappeared. Goals were within reach. Crises were solvable! I love the fact that I can help change someone’s life for the better while also improving my community.”

Armendariz says that education is very powerful in the Latino community. “When someone can see a document in their own language, the Spanish language, and then understand exactly what’s being signed or agreed to – that’s very empowering,” she says. “When I can show someone the ‘leaks’ in their finances, or illustrate what a loan amortization schedule is telling them, that’s exciting to people. Being able to discuss sensitive topics in your native language with someone who’s been in their shoes and conveys no judgement or shame, that’s so powerful and truly life changing. I always say I would be in a financial mess myself today if not for what I learned!”

For more information on the Center’s Homeownership Advisors Network, visit hocmn.org/buyingahome.