Making Dreams Come True: Building Neighborhoods Through Home Ownership

Our neighbors in West Philadelphia are shut out of home ownership. To empower these residents, we’ll teach them to bank, save, and purchase a home.

When we talk about Economic Prosperity initiatives, we are talking about serving those most disconnected from basic economic empowerment tools.

We are talking about getting our neighbors of color to stop using check cashing storefronts and start banking in FDIC insured banks. We are talking about empowering residents with the skills of homeownership, budgeting, credit repair, and home maintenance. We are talking about hitting the streets where a disproportionate number of minority, female-led households are poor and paying high rents instead of regulated mortgages.

We are proposing to expand our successful Housing Counseling program within West Philadelphia. Our goal is to educate residents to become homebuyers and provide post-purchase counseling after they buy their homes.

Our neighbors need access to reliable and honest information regarding banking and the advantages of homeownership. Our team is certified, community-minded and experienced. We will offer educational workshops, one-on-one counseling, and post-purchase planning.

What is the community need this addresses?

Buying a home is the single most important step one can take to become economically stable. Our plan targets neighborhoods in West Philadelphia which have an overwhelming number of minority residents struggling to make ends meet. These single mothers and elderly grandparents, sometimes caring for multiple children, pay punishing rent and lack the access to financial education and homeownership information.

More than 50 percent of residents in these targeted neighborhoods rent homes — instead of investing in their own. Our knowledgeable team understands the lending industry and can offer insight into products which provide mortgage rates that are less expensive than their current rent payment. Once a home is bought, our team stays involved. We offer post-purchase education, including “how to be a good neighbor” training, credit counseling, DIY workshops, and furniture stipends.

What is the solution currently in place?

Our Housing Counseling Department has been HUD certified for over 20 years. Counselors regularly renew their credentials and participate in trainings accredited by NeighborWorks. We have counseled thousands of area residents and formed strong partnerships, such as the City of Philadelphia’s Diversion Court, the Office of Housing and Community Development, Community Legal Redevelopment Authority, Federal Reserve Bank, Philadelphia Sheriff’s Department, and Department of Tax Revenue.

Each year, counselors work with over 1,300 underserved Philadelphia community residents through one-on-one counseling, homebuying classes and workshops, foreclosure prevention services, and financial literacy education. In 2018, Housing Counselors successfully resolved 103 foreclosure cases, keeping families secure in their own homes with more affordable lending terms for their mortgages. Further, 88 families remained housed by utilizing ULP’s utility assistance program (USEF), and 68 families successfully purchased their first homes with our support. Our counselors understand the need for consistent follow-up communication with all clients.

How will a Key to the Community grant help?

Too often, our neighbors are locked in a continuous cycle of poverty, perpetuated by false information. Banks are not out to take our money, and credit history is imperative to economic prosperity. We are ready, with the help of a Key to Community grant, to infuse Housing Counselors into neighborhoods where this cycle is all too common. Counselors will provide in- depth training for the residents of these neighborhoods who are in need of one-on-one financial planning in order to circumvent poverty.

We are committed to teaching banking, financial wellness and home ownership skills to these under-served neighbors; our program expansion will allow them to explore the many advantages of home ownership — a critical step on the path to economic independence — in a community where many residents remain “unbanked,” paying high rents and subject to predatory lending practices.

Idea Submitted by:

Urban League of Philadelphia

Founded in 1917, The Urban League of Philadelphia has been a leading civil rights organization in Philadelphia for more than 100 years. To fight the pervasive, systemic poverty and wage inequality that disproportionately blights our communities of color, ULP has adopted a two- pronged strategy: 1) provide direct services in response to the needs of our local communities, 2) advocate for and elevate the voices of the African American community.

Examples of current activities to serve African American and other underserved communities:

  • Building wealth and housing security through homeownership counseling to over 1,300 Philadelphia minority residents.
  • Equipping hundreds of residents with family sustaining employment connection, digital literacy skills, and workforce development trainings.
  • Increasing earning potential through small business expansion and/or skills development for over 350 minority entrepreneurs annually.
  • Fighting for access to civil rights through advocacy for equitable education statewide and fair voting rights.