For most people, buying a home is the American dream. It can open doors beyond the welcome mat.
"People are looked at differently by financial institutions when they own," says Marcia Griffin, president of HomeFree-USA, a nonprofit organization that helps people in underserved communities buy homes.
She says money you invest in your home can be used later to send your children to college. And you can borrow against the cost of your home to open a business. Essentially, the purchase of a home is an investment in yourself and your family, she says.
But "for African-Americans . . . there was no hope [for years] of most of us getting a home because . . . many of us didn't know the importance, and many of us didn't have the down payment, so didn't meet the requirements," says Jacqueline Johnson, a HomeFree member. "[I]f you did know the importance and you had the down payment or met the requirements, then the racism when you got to the loan table would cut you off."
But things are changing. There are stricter laws against discrimination, and the mortgage industry is realizing that there's a relatively untapped market available. HomeFree is bridging the gap between lenders …