Center Testifies on Need to Expand Mortgage Relief Efforts

Bill Gray April 22, 2020

Testimony was delivered at remote hearings before both the Minnesota House and Senate on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.

The following testimony was delivered remotely before both the Minnesota Senate Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing Finance Committee and the Minnesota House Housing Finance and Policy Division at scheduled public hearings held on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.

Chair Westrom/Hausman and members of the Committee, my name is Bill Gray and I am Stakeholder Relations Director at the non-profit Minnesota Homeownership Center.

The Center believes that owning a home is a foundation for personal success. For the last 25 years, we’ve 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 40 community-based organizations throughout the state to offer unbiased homebuyer advisory services and our Home Stretch homeownership education curriculum. We work primarily with households of color and lower income households. Last year, 63 percent of the households we served represented communities of color, and the median income of households served was $38,000.

We’ve also worked tirelessly to support current homeowners experiencing challenges in maintaining ownership via foreclosure prevention counseling. Since 2008, we’ve worked with our network partners to help more than 37,000 households successfully avoid foreclosure and maintain the stability that homeownership offers. Sadly, with the ongoing unprecedented economic and financial upheaval due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we anticipate demand for our foreclosure prevention work to increase dramatically over the short term.

The Minnesota Homeownership Center is determined to prevent a repeat of the 2008 foreclosure crisis, during which so many lower- and middle-income individuals and families lost so much. Back then, our network organizations were frontline responders. We worked to quickly raise and deploy resources to support foreclosure prevention, advocacy, housing development and community healing. But even with these and other loss mitigation efforts, Minnesota experienced a staggering 135,000 foreclosures from 2008 to 2014. Households of color were disproportionately impacted, and have still not yet fully recovered. This can’t be allowed to happen again.

In order to be more successful this time around, we need immediate strong leadership and bold action by policymakers such as yourselves. Extending the Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program to benefit owners as well as renters is a good example of such bold leadership, and we are standing by to roll up our sleeves, ramp up our programming and dig in our heels to help every homeowner in the state that needs our help. Homeownership preservation is homelessness prevention, and we commend you for your vision.

Thank you for your time and I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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