Love & Wisdom

Empowering Black Seattleites in Pursuit of Homeownership  

How Seattle’s lack of affordable housing is affecting its Black residents 

By Schanice Staples  March 12, 2024

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This article originally appeared in the July/August 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

Owning a home is a fundamental step toward financial security, and a core component of closing the racial wealth gap and building intergenerational wealth. For Black Americans, who have historically faced a stark gap in homeownership compared to their white counterparts, that journey has come a long way. 

For instance, despite facing challenges like rising mortgage rates, recent findings from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) suggest a promising future for homeownership among Black Americans, reflecting a steady increase in homeownership among minority communities. This shift can be attributed in part to evolving demographics, with Baby Boomers transitioning out of homeownership and younger, more diverse generations entering the housing market. 

Despite the improvement, challenges persist, particularly among Black residents in Seattle, underscoring the importance of providing the community with the tools and knowledge to achieve homeownership.

As a Black woman and financial advisor deeply engrained in Seattle’s community, I’ve witnessed firsthand the struggles many Black individuals face in securing affordable housing. Through my work at Northwestern Mutual, I aim to not only address these challenges but also to empower Black Seattleites to attain financial security and intergenerational wealth through property ownership. 

 

Understand your unique circumstances 

During my career as a financial advisor, I leveraged the tools and knowledge I’ve gained to help my veteran mother purchase two properties, securing the preservation of her legacy for generations to come. In empowering my mother and fellow Black individuals to achieve financial success, I’ve recognized the importance of understanding the circumstances that might affect your chances of homeownership. 

An example of this is reflecting on my mother’s own homebuying experience, in which I helped her leverage a first-time homebuyer and veteran administration (VA) loan — two resources that helped turn her dream of buying a home into a reality. VA loans offer benefits like a zero percent down payment and lower interest rates, making homeownership more accessible for qualified veterans. 

By acknowledging and understanding your unique circumstances — such as age, family status and aspirations — you can better navigate the available resources that can help facilitate homeownership. Furthermore, advocating for yourself and your needs is a key component to fostering a community where homeownership is not merely a dream but a tangible reality for all. 

 

Leverage mortgage opportunities 

Roughly 60% of residents in our community find themselves classified as “cost-burdened renters,” dedicating 30% or more of their household income toward rent and utilities. While renting may seem like the only option in an expensive housing market like Seattle, homeownership can offer surprising advantages. Many individuals are unaware that a mortgage costs less than renting, particularly if they plan to stay in the area. 

Having a conversation with a mortgage lender is a great first step toward homeownership. Even if buying a home isn’t an immediate goal, consulting with a lender can help you assess your candidacy and viability for a loan. Moreover, working with a financial professional allows you to incorporate any necessary adjustments into your overall financial plan, thereby making homeownership more possible.

 

Consider other options to generational prosperity 

If homeownership isn’t possible or doesn’t align with your goals, there are alternative ways to build generational wealth. In so doing, you can fortify your financial future regardless of your homeownership status, thereby creating a more prosperous future for generations to come. Some options include:

Developing multiple streams of income: Diversifying income streams is a proven strategy to enhance financial resilience and build wealth over time. Black Seattleites can explore opportunities in stocks, bonds, real estate investment trusts (REITs) or even entrepreneurship. By generating income from various sources, individuals can create a robust financial foundation that withstands economic fluctuations and lays the groundwork for long-term wealth accumulation.

Preserving assets through estate planning and life insurance: Estate planning and life insurance play pivotal roles in safeguarding assets and securing the financial future of loved ones. Families can use estate planning to protect their assets and ensure a smooth transfer of wealth. Additionally, buying life insurance can provide a financial safety net for beneficiaries, offering peace of mind.

Building strong credit and avoiding debt: A solid credit profile is essential for accessing favorable financial opportunities, from securing low-interest loans to negotiating better insurance rates. Simply by paying bills on time and using credit properly, individuals can build and maintain strong credit scores. Additionally, adopting a disciplined approach to managing debt and avoiding high-interest loans can prevent financial strain and facilitate wealth accumulation.

 

As Seattle’s Black community navigates the intricacies of homeownership and wealth creation, it’s imperative to reframe the narrative, empowering future generations to forge a brighter and more prosperous path forward. 

 

Schanice Staples is a financial advisor at Northwestern Mutual – Seattle. She can be reached at http://schanicestaples.nm.com

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