Minnesota ranks high in a lot of areas.  Education, health, and homeownership are examples. But access to these things hasn’t been equitable.

Homeownership rates, for example, among people of color in Minneapolis and St. Paul show a glaring racial equity gap: the highest homeownership disparity in the entire U.S.

For Black households, homeownership rates are about half the state average. Access to down payment funding and information are cited as barriers to homeownership. 

Says Kim Smith-Moore, “Now is the time to change that.”  

NeighborWorks Home Partners and Wells Fargo are presenting the NeighborhoodLIFT program to help remove some of the barriers for homebuyers in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

Born and raised on the Northside of Minneapolis, Smith-Moore is a Wells Fargo Senior Vice President and LIFT Programs National Manager. She runs the Wells Fargo Foundation Housing Affordability Philanthropy initiative. She leads the foundation’s homeownership strategy and identifies opportunities to increase homeownership in BIPOC (Black, Ingenious People of Color) communities across the country.

Smith-Moore said Wells Fargo, with the intent to reduce the racial equity gap, is bringing the NeighborhoodLIFT program to the Twin Cities for the third time in a decade offering $15,000 grants to help low-to-moderate income homebuyers with down payment costs to buy a home. The NeighborhoodLIFT program provides down payment assistance for people to purchase homes and prepares them for the home buying process.

Smith-Moore manages over $500 million in grants through the LIFTprograms. Locally, the $7 million “Neighborhood Lift” program is expected to help 425 families buy a home within the city limits of St. Paul or Minneapolis. To qualify, households can earn no more than 80 percent of area median income, which is $77,840 for a family of four.

NeighborhoodLIFT prospective homebuyers get coaching on the homeownership process in a required a certified homebuying workshop through NeighborWorks Home Partners or another nonprofit. The homebuying counseling is available at no charge to participants.

NeighborWorks CEO Jason Peterson, a native of Saint Paul, joined Smith-Moore in the recent interview on Conversations with Al McFarlane on KFAI. Peterson has been at NeighborWorks for ten years and has seen the organization grow from being mostly focused on a few neighborhoods in Saint Paul to now serving the whole metro. For the past 20 years, his work has revolved around making sure people have a place to live.  “Safe and stable housing is one of the cornerstones from which all else grows,” Peterson said.

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