In Washington, DC, about 50% of black households own their home, and although this is a few percentage points higher than the national average, it is still well below the rate for white DC households, of which 70% own. This homeownership gap has its roots in decades-old discriminatory housing policies and continues to exacerbate the racial wealth gap, leaving black families behind when it comes to building a family. generational wealth that can come from owning a property.
Now DC real estate company Flock is trying to help shift that balance with a foundation called birdSEED, which will provide home buying assistance for black and brown residents. Launched in February, birdSEED will offer grants between $ 5,000 and $ 15,000 for down payments on housing, supporting first-time homebuyers who would otherwise have been excluded from the home buying process.
Lisa Wise, CEO of Flock, says this program is focused on helping the down payment, as that down payment is often the biggest barrier to homeownership. “There may be enough monthly income for a family to make a mortgage payment, but it’s these reserves, this cash down payment that is the barrier between renting and owning,” she says. . “We hope this will bring some relief. “
Down payments aren’t the only obstacle, however, and Wise added that this is just a move that needs to be done in order to create more viable pathways to homeownership. Soaring housing costs and gentrification are others. While birdSEED on its own does not preserve the affordability of DC’s housing stock, this kind of affordable housing advocacy “has to be an integral part of what we do,” says Wise. And while Flock works exclusively in the district, the grants program will consider applicants outside of Washington, DC proper who have been excluded from the region due to its affordability concerns, and the company will be part of the conversations about. housing policy with the city.
Recipients will need to be first-time home buyers and meet income thresholds (yet to be determined), and obtaining a birdSEED grant will be dependent on mortgage approval. The birdSEED webpage will soon direct potential buyers to the app, where they will share income and work history information, lender details, and a brief statement of needs. Flock also works to direct applicants to other supports, such as financial planning resources or affordable housing programs. The birdSEED Foundation is already working in partnership with the Greater Washington Community Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on housing justice as well as other ways to make Washington, DC more equitable, which will help examine requests.
Flock started in 2008 and is technically a group of real estate companies: property management company Nest DC, as well as Roost DC, an employee-owned condo management company; and the Starling DC construction and maintenance branch. With the three branches, Flock generates approximately $ 6.5 million in revenue per year, the Washington post reported. Part of birdSEED’s initial funding comes from employees, says Wise. “It was received with a lot of enthusiasm, to be honest,” she adds. This is an example of how Flock has focused on making a difference in his community.
This iteration of birdSEED builds on a previous one that offered micro-grants of $ 2,500 to $ 5,000 for “doers, makers and disruptors” in the district. This first release helped fund ideas like coding lessons for black girls, an effort to throw birthday parties for homeless kids, and painting murals around DC. This new use of birdSEED was inspired by the national calculation that followed the murder of George Floyd in May 2020.
“I spent more time than ever examining our industry’s role in segregation and racism, and decided we needed to use birdSEED as a vehicle to continue a different kind of conversation about race and fairness. Says Wise. “And that we needed to see what we could do to free up resources for people to own, because our industry had really excluded a lot of people from that path.”
Flock sees this down payment assistance program as a form of redress. The program will begin with seed funding of $ 215,000 and will work to raise more funds and form partnerships with real estate agents, mortgagees and lenders. Wise hopes they can encourage others to contribute, “so that we can create a fund that survives my idea,” she says. “One that has purpose and longevity and becomes part of the web of resources that are available to the people who really need them. “