Minnesota’s homeownership gap is one factor at the heart of the economic disparities keeping us stuck with an unfair and inequitable system.

The year 2020 isn’t even half way over, and already we’ve endured multiple events that will forever change our world. A global pandemic rages on, leaving a trail of devastating and uneven economic impact. And the killing of George Floyd has left us heartbroken, angry and demanding justice as cities and towns across the country and the world rise up to condemn systemic racism. Truly, these are pivotal times.

As June starts and we enter into Homeownership Month, we recognize the tremendous importance of equitable access to ownership and the fact that Minnesota has one of the most inequitable ownership rates between white households and households of color – particularly black households. While the chaos 2020 has brought to each of us may seem overwhelming, we must continue to fight against embedded social inequities such as this if we want to make any real progress in changing things for the better. We agree with Governor Tim Walz that things can’t go back to the way they’ve always been. And we accept his challenge to work with lawmakers and others to erase economic inequities, particularly in housing. The Minnesota Homeownership Center is more committed than ever to continuing to work with our nonprofit and community-based partners to reduce Minnesota’s deliberately created and stubbornly rooted homeownership gap.

In the environment we find ourselves in today, there are two avenues of help we can provide in the homeownership arena – education and advising for those in a position to pursue ownership for the first time (or even if it’s not the first time), and default prevention counseling for those who are being negatively impacted by the sudden economic downturn. Our financial wellness services may also be helpful in both of these areas – whether for building a budget to work toward ownership, or for rebuilding finances in the wake of a negative change in income. Those that come to us for help will benefit from a nearly 30-year track record of proven results. Since 2008, more than 100,000 Minnesota households have benefitted from our homeownership advising and education activities, and we’ve worked with more than 37,000 Minnesota households to successfully avoid mortgage foreclosure.

In honor of Homeownership Month, several of our Network partners are offering free Home Stretch homeownership education classes during June. Most are being held virtually, while a handful are being held in-person while observing social distancing. All upcoming classes can be found on our website here. The pandemic quarantine coupled with the uneven economic impact left in its wake may lead some to consider ownership anew.

Beginning in June and continuing through the end of the year, the Center is ramping up its default prevention services capacity to facilitate quick response to any uptick in mortgage defaults we may see over the next few months. Default prevention advisors can be found here. We’re also embarking on a major public awareness campaign to educate owners in trouble about the wide variety of options available that could help them retain their hard-earned homeownership through this difficult period. The fact is, households of color still have not gained back the ground they lost in ownership during the 2008-2009 foreclosure crisis. We are absolutely committed to avoiding a repeat of this tragedy. We can’t afford to lose any more ground in the fight to reduce our inequitable homeownership gap!

In closing, while 2020 thus far has been difficult, to say the least, we are hopeful that recent events will lead to a greater understanding of the importance of equity for all – and greater acknowledgement that things are not equitable at present. We are committed to working with our partners and others to play a leading role in efforts to bring true equitable access to homeownership in Minnesota.