America's homeownership rate has reached a record high, but rates for African-Americans and Latinos are one-third lower than those of white Americans. At a time when our nation's housing-finance system is the envy of the world, an affordable mortgage is still beyond the grasp of many Americans - most notably many minority and low-income families.
Financial empowerment - tearing down barriers to permit access to capital and providing individuals the financial literacy needed to build and preserve their financial independence - has powerful national implications. This is as true in the housing market as it is in the markets for credit cards, banking services, and insurance products. For example, the purchase of a home, which is often the most significant financial commitment a family will ever make, remains a key path to financial enfranchisement.
Homeownership also has an important, positive impact on the communities where those families live and work. By offering more minority homebuyers access to low-cost mortgages, we get a double benefit: More people have homes they can afford and keep, and more communities thrive and grow.
Our organizations share a common vision. It is a vision of expanding the accessibility and affordability of home mortgages to even more individuals and families - particularly those now underserved by the traditional mortgage market.
To help realize that vision, Freddie Mac and the Rainbow/Push Wall Street Project have announced a joint campaign to increase homeownership among minority families. The campaign, known as the Freddie Mac/Rainbow Push Minority Homeownership Initiative, is expected to generate as much as $1 billion in mortgage loans to minority families over the next five years.
T he initiative is based on the two key elements of financial empowerment: financial literacy and access to capital. The financial literacy component, providing information to minority families about savings and investment, and preparing them for homeownership, leverages one of the strongest community development institutions in many African-American communities: the churches.Using the infrastructure of Rainbow/Push Wall Street Project's "One Thousand Churches Connected" economic literacy initiative, the Minority Homeownership Initiative will offer church members classes about homeownership and the mechanics of the homebuying process, as well as about mortgage loan products available as part of the Initiative. Topics such as managing debt, maintaining a good credit record, and achieving financial independence will be covered using materials produced by Freddie Mac in association with several historically black colleges and universities, as well as "It's About the Money," a newly published guide to personal finance.
Freddie Mac and the Wall Street Project will work with Bank of America nationally, and minority lenders across the country, to offer flexible and affordable mortgage loan products to meet the needs of minority homebuyers. Freddie Mac has also committed to purchase up to $1 billion of mortgage loans generated by the initiative.
As part of its ongoing commitment to generate homeownership opportunities in underserved communities, Freddie Mac will also fund research partnerships with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and the Howard University School of Business to provide technical assistance and consulting services to minority firms.
We have a shared vision for America, an America in which access to capital and financial independence are colorblind. An America in which all families can achieve the dream of decent and affordable housing.
Mr. Brendsel is chairman and chief executive officer of Freddie Mac. Mr. Jackson is the founder of the Rainbow/Push Coalition.