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City of Birmingham, Local Real Estate Pros Partner to Encourage Homeownership

Members of the Birmingham Realtist Association attended a Birmingham City Council meeting, as they have become official partners with the City of Birmingham to administer down payment assistance to homebuyers. (Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson, The Birmingham Times)

By Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson | For The Birmingham Times

The City of Birmingham will partner with area real estate professionals on a down payment assistance program to create more opportunities for African Americans who want to own homes.

The council voted unanimously to collaborate with the Birmingham Realtist Association on the program. Realtists are African American real estate professionals part of the larger National Association of Real Estate Brokers, or NAREB, which has chapters all over the country.

NAREB’s mission is to encourage home ownership among more African Americans nationwide by working through its local chapters.

“We generally have a really deep footprint in the community, but being able to partner with the city on things like this allows us to really be able to bridge the gap and bring the residents and the city together to create a common goal,” said Justin Williams, President of the Birmingham Realtist Association.

Council President Darrell O’Quinn said the partnership allows the city to help identify potential homeowners. “I’m glad that we have that group locally to work with and help us overcome some of our own legacy,” he said. “Many of our communities are still segregated and that’s a portion of our past we will have to be very intentional about overcoming.”

He added, “Redlining is something that still occurs today and their organization occupies a particular spot of being very vocal and pointing out that those disparities.”

Here’s how the down payment assistance program will work:

For buyers who qualify for the assistance, they “will have access to at least $10,000 of down payment assistance funds,” Williams said. “There may be matching funds from some partnering banks, but that can go towards all things in regard to their cash to close. Those funds are going to be extremely important for buyers to be able to secure homes,” said Williams.

From left: Associate Broker Justin Williams, President of Birmingham Realtist Association; Kingsley Chuku, President of the Young Realtist Division, and Broker Lou Hill of the Birmingham Realtist Association. (Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson, The Birmingham Times)

The partnership comes days before Realtist Week, which is April 8-14 and will feature a series of events which spotlight steps to prepare more African Americans for homeownership.

One of the highlights is the Building Black Wealth Tour Community Day on Saturday, April 13 at New Rising Star Baptist Church, 7400 London Avenue, at 10 a.m.

“This is the real estate extravaganza with information from all different sectors of the real estate industry — for homeowners, for home buyers, for Black males to be able to purchase homes, and for women to invest in real estate. There will be one-on-one opportunities with real estate agents, housing counselors, lenders and attorneys. It’s a free event for the community, so we’re looking to reach at least 1,000 residents,” said Williams.

Other events of the week include a Fitness Day/Membership Drive, a State of Housing in Black America Luncheon and an Annual Scholarship Golf Tournament.

The climate for home ownership for African Americans is shifting, which makes the work of his organization all the more important, Williams said.

“Home ownership is becoming less affordable with rising interest rates, soaring home prices and additional costs that are being added to the buyers now, outside of all the other challenges,” said Williams. “Those things are just broadening the (wealth) gap, but as we talked about, our goal is closing the wealth gap and understanding that home ownership is one of the tools to achieve that.”

For more information on the Birmingham Realtist Association, visit www.nareb.com/birmingham-realtist-association