The FHLBank San Francisco is providing a total of $1 million in matching grants to Department of Housing and Development-approved counseling agencies to serve more aspiring and at-risk homeowners in communities of color.

This grant program is called Empowering Black Homeownership and eligible FHLBank San Francisco members that are making their own donations can request a dollar-for-dollar matching grant of up to a total of $125,000. The grants will be given to the housing counseling agencies to be used for HUD-eligible activities during 2022 and 2023, including staffing and marketing, along with pre-and post-purchase counseling services.

While the program has a two-year life span, the FHLB San Francisco is looking “to use [the funding] as quickly as we can,” said President and CEO Teresa Bryce Bazemore. “We’re going to start working with members who are interested in participating, and if we are able to use up all the money in 2022, we will.”

Teresa Bryce Bazemore is the president and CEO of the FHLBank San Francisco

Alex Lowy

However, the FHLBank San Francisco board could decide at any point to add additional funds for the program, she explained.

When Bazemore, who had retired in April 2017 as president of Radian Guaranty, accepted the FHLBank San Francisco job a year ago, she noted much of what she done during her career aligns with the mission of affordable housing, community development and economic development

Last October, the bank teamed with the Urban Institute to create the Racial Equity Accelerator for Homeownership, a two-year, $1.5 million commitment creating an incubator to develop innovations in housing finance.

Both of these programs are what Bazemore termed “voluntary” on behalf of the bank. It has a legal requirement to contribute 10% of its previous year’s net income to its Affordable Housing Program. For all of 2021, the bank reported $287 million in net income.

The voluntary programs are not a part of that commitment.

Housing is considered the primary way to address the wealth gap between Black and white households. A typical Black household has only about 23% of the wealth of a typical white household, an April 2021 Zillow study found. Lower home values and rates of homeownership among the Black population account for nearly 40% of that gap.

“We’re focused on working with counseling agencies that are working in minority communities that are primarily black communities, but there could be a variety of people [of color] who are in those communities and participate in the program,” Bazemore said.

Others are also making efforts to improve homeownership rates among people of color, including the Black Homeownership Collaborative’s “3by30” program announced last June.

This week, TD Bank introduced the TD Home Access Mortgage, which aims to increase homeownership opportunities in Black and Hispanic communities in portions of its East Coast retail banking footprint.

It includes a $5,000 lender credit which does not require repayment. Borrowers can use that credit for closing costs or toward a down payment on a home purchase.

“The current housing market is highly competitive, making it exceedingly difficult for potential homebuyers, especially people of color, to contend if they have limited financial resources for a down payment or closing costs,” said Michael Innis-Thompson, head of community lending and development at TD Bank in a press release. “This mortgage offering is designed to ease that burden, provide more equity in the home lending process, and make the dream of homeownership more attainable for Black and Hispanic families.”

But advocates have noted in the past that it’s not just getting a home, it is also having the knowledge and ability to keep it.

“Knowledge is power, and this funding can help ensure that Black homebuyers and homeowners have equal access to all the information they need to feel confident in their own ability to purchase a home or sustain homeownership,” Bazemore said.

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