Concerned that educational and professional opportunities might take her from one city to the next, Latosha Key was nervous about purchasing a home early in her career. But the 2004 Spelman College graduate was intrigued when she was invited to attend the Student Homeownership Opportunity Program (S.H.O.P.) at the Atlanta University Center last spring.
Although Key, whose father is a builder and real estate developer, grew up learning about real estate, she credits S.H.O.P. with helping her understand how she could benefit financially from homeownership. The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation initiative, cosponsored by State Farm, Freddie Mac, the National Association of Home Builders, and the ING Foundation, targets historically black colleges and universities and community colleges in CBC member districts where there are no HBCUs. The program offers two-hour workshops where presenters and panelists — financial and homeownership experts and professionals from related industries — teach graduating seniors the ins and outs of purchasing a home. Attendees were also taught about debt management, saving, budgeting, how to establish and maintain good credit, and the economic benefits of homeownership.
Those who complete the course qualify for a $1,000 voucher toward closing costs on a home, which can be redeemed up to two years from their graduation date. The voucher, or grant letter, is provided by a lender participating in the program. In 2004, JPMorgan Chase, Countrywide, and Pinnacle Mortgage sponsored grant letters.
In 2003, its first year, the CBCF took S.H.O.P. to four schools. Simone Griffin, manager of S.H.O.P., says the CBCF plans to visit 36 schools in 11 states during the 2004–2005 school year. “Our ultimate goal is to increase the homeownership rate among African Americans,” she says. “We want to help [the younger generation] understand that the wealth-building process involves buying a home.”
Teresa Merriweather Orok, associate vice president for institutional research, planning, and outreach at Albany State University in Georgia, is convinced of the program’s benefits. “Many of the students talked about how they wanted to move forward [on purchasing a home] but didn’t know how,” she explains. “The workshop provided a roadmap for them. They discussed what it means to be credit-worthy and how to build wealth.”
Key certainly followed that roadmap. The native of Aiken, South Carolina, decided to spend another two years in Atlanta working in network security to fulfill her work commitment to the Federal Cybercorp Scholarship for Service program, which paid the last two years of her tuition. She was confident she’d be able to pay for a mortgage. She got a copy of her credit report and then found a lender who offered her an adjustable-rate mortgage with lower payments during the first five years of the loan. Key was able to put $5,000 down on the home using the stipend she received from her scholarship. In July 2004, Key closed on a $132,000 mortgage on a condo. Three months later, the purchase price for condos in her community was advertised at $140,000.
Griffin says Key was the first student to take advantage of the $1,000 voucher S.H.O.P. provides,