Self-Help Shares

Self-Help’s Racial Wealth Gap Initiative

By staff
  | Jun 24, 2022

Stacey Travis CottonOPTIMIZED

Stacey Cotton, who works in a manufacturing plant in Tarboro, NC, with her husband Travis outside their home. Stacey made this purchase with a Self-Help loan while she was single.


At Self-Help, we’ve spent the last 42 years striving to be a force for economic and social justice in the communities we serve. Today that fight for justice feels more urgent than ever, as we reflect on the inequities of the pandemic and the national racial reckoning of the past few years.  We know that our country can’t thrive until opportunity is truly available to all. So we’re working to reverse the economic disparities that keep underserved borrowers, especially Black and Latino families, from reaching the same levels of prosperity as others.

The Problem

Homeownership remains one of the best ways for working families to build wealth and stability in their lives. However, centuries of discriminatory practices have kept Black and Latino families from buying homes at the same rate as whites, and have kept the value of what properties they could purchase much lower than their white counterparts’.

Despite a lot of hard-won progress to stop discrimination in housing, generations of disparities and systemic exclusion means that there’s still a big gap in homeownership rates between Black and white households — about 30%. All things being equal, Black families not only hold less wealth than whites, but they also pay more in fees and interest than white families do.

Without generations of financial security to fall back on, like inheritances and other assets, many Black and Latino families today have to work harder to catch up to the levels of wealth enjoyed by white families. That difference in generational wealth is part of why the racial homeownership gap — and the racial wealth gap – persist. We at Self-Help and our partners are working to address this problem through our Racial Wealth Gap Initiative (RWGI).

Why Self-Help is Taking On This Problem

Over the decades, we’ve learned that homeownership not only provides one of the key pathways for families to build wealth, but also contributes to stability and well-being. While we’ve always been committed to our mission of creating and protecting ownership and economic opportunity for all, we’ve recently partnered with mission-aligned organizations to expand this commitment and help close the racial wealth gap. 

We want homeownership rates to rise for families of color, and we want to see equitable costs of homeownership and equitable valuation of assets. We also want to ensure we're not continuing the inequities in the costs and fees associated with buying a home for our members.

While each family’s first home is a milestone, we’re aiming to do much more than just close on houses — we want to build a strong foundation before the initial purchase so that new homeowners can sustain their ownership. Our priority is successful, long-term ownership and wealth building for each family. 

What We’re Doing

To make these goals a reality, we’re taking a unique approach. First, we’re innovating in the home lending process. We're partnering with other financial institutions to make flexible loan products more accessible, and we're taking lessons from other nonprofits focused on equity in homeownership.

We’re also offering robust financial coaching as well as fair products and services. We help families navigate this process with a wide range of resources, including:

  • Flexible underwriting guidelines
  • Low down payments that mean homebuyers pay less cash out of pocket
  • 100% financing as well as ability to finance some closing costs into the loan
  • The ability to work with 580 credit scores and above
  • Competitive interest rates
  • No Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)
  • Financial capability coaching 

We’re also replicating our success stories as models for other members to build wealth through homeownership. With each success, we take the opportunity to expand our vision and impact with more families who can benefit from it.

Finally, we’re sharing these success stories to advocate for other financial institutions to adopt similar practices to close the racial wealth gap. We’re optimistic that the impact of the RWGI will show that thinking outside the box of conventional home lending wisdom can help to foster equity and make more financial institutions become part of the solution, not the problem.

How You Can Join Us

If you are on the path to homeownership yourself, check out our home loan products and our financial coaching services. We’d be honored to work with you as you build wealth for your family. 

And whether you’re a homeowner or not, we encourage you to join us in thinking about homeownership as a tool for building wealth and creating economic justice. When we work together to change the attitudes and perceptions that have unjustly held so many back, we can expand economic justice and create vibrant, thriving communities.


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