By Stacy M. Brown (The Washington Informer/NNPA Member)
Wells Fargo’s $60 billion pledge to African American homebuyers is a major part of the company’s dedication to a community that’s grown accustomed to being shut out from having a slice of the American Dream. In addition to the $60 billion in lending for home purchases, the company committed to increasing the diversity of its sales team and providing $15 million toward initiatives focused on homebuyer education and counseling.
“Homeownership is vitally important, because homes are the building blocks of the American Dream and a proven, sustainable vehicle for building individual and family wealth that can be passed down from generation to generation,” said Cerita Battles, the senior vice president and head of retail diverse segments for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.
Battles continued: “Homes make up our neighborhoods and our communities and are a stabilizing force for families, making homeownership a key driver of our nation’s economic and cultural well-being.”
With that understanding, bank officials know that their commitment and helpful information to those interested in becoming homeowners must be communicated to the African American community.
To that end, sharing news through the Black Press is also important for Wells Fargo, Battles said.
“Being present in the communities we serve is one of our key strategies for reaching our goals and African American newspapers are a trusted vehicle for news and information in those communities,” Battles said. “So, having information about being a homeowner and sustaining homeownership is critical to reaching the goals of the commitment and helping more African American families become homeowners.”
Housing experts have said that it’s important for aspiring homeowners to have as much knowledge as possible about the homeownership process; that information helps to dispel myths that many African Americans have about homeownership.
“There are many myths that cause a lot of potential African American homebuyers to assume that getting a home mortgage is something beyond their reach. But many times, this is completely untrue, and that message needs to get out,” Battles said. “African Americans need to have the confidence and knowledge to recognize that they can be homeowners, and that a lender, like Wells Fargo, truly wants to help them meet their home-financing needs. The Black Press, and other media for that matter, helps us share these messages to those who desire to obtain and sustain homeownership.”
Battles noted that it’s also important to remember that Wells Fargo’s African American homeownership commitment is not a separate loan program, but an effort by the company to increase homeowners in the community. Any of the programs, products, and services that Wells Fargo offers are available to all customers who qualify.
She said it’s not really about what the bank is doing differently for African Americans, but more about how Wells Fargo is showing up for them.
“It’s more about getting the messages to them, meeting them where, when, and how they want to interact with us so that we can leverage all that we have to offer. It’s about education, counseling, and being present in their communities,” Battles said.
Wells Fargo’s commitment to the African American community extends beyond the homeownership commitment. In 2016, the company committed to offering $75 million in grants and lending to help diverse-owned small businesses access capital and technical assistance by the end of 2020.
“In fact, by the end of 2016, the Wells Fargo Works for Small Business: Diverse Community Capital program had distributed $38 million in grants and lending capital to 30 Community Development Financial Institutions serving diverse, small businesses, placing us more than halfway to our goal,” Battles said.
Battles said that even though the goals of the homeownership commitment are challenging, Wells Fargo is committed to doing what it takes to help increase African American homeowners.
“This commitment is not a sprint, but a long journey that will require the focus of our team and collaboration with industry influencers, nonprofits and other organizations,” Battles said. “If this were just a public relations campaign, we would not have made the goals so lofty.”
“Making this commitment holds us accountable to ourselves, our customers, our communities, and the organizations that joined us in this effort; by pushing ourselves, stretching ourselves, and then delivering on our commitments in a responsible manner, we are ensuring true meaningful progress for African-American homeownership across America.”
This article was originally published in The Washington Informer, a member publication of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Learn more about becoming a member at www.nnpa.org.