UPDATE: South Orange-Maplewood Coalition on Race Announces Loan Program to Incentivize Black Homebuyers

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Updated April 1, 2022: This release has been updated with supporting information on the legality of the program.

From the South Orange-Maplewood Community Coalition on Race:

In an effort to address racialized housing inequities, the South Orange-Maplewood Community Coalition on Race is launching a loan program—the Wealth Gap Equalizer Loan (WGEL)—with the goal of supporting a new generation of Black and non-white Hispanic homebuyers in South Orange and Maplewood, NJ (SOMA).

The historical racial inequities in homeownership that are still present in Essex County, NJ today threaten to constrain the racial diversity of South Orange and Maplewood. NJ. In fact, non-Hispanic White households in Essex County New Jersey are 41% more likely to own a home than their Black and non-white Hispanic counterparts. This gap is greater today than it was fifty years ago, prior to the passage of the Fair Housing Act.

The WGEL program is structured to narrow this ownership gap by making home-buying more attainable for Black and non-white Hispanic families in the South Orange and Maplewood communities. WGEL is a Special Purpose Credit program that offers qualifying first-time home-buyers loans up to $7,500.

The program relies on interest-free, unsecured loans that will enable these historically disadvantaged families to successfully compete in the home buying process by providing supplemental cash for purchase offers, down payments, closing costs, legal fees and other transactions related to home buying.

In collaboration with HUD-approved counseling agencies, mortgage lenders, and real estate professionals serving the South Orange and Maplewood communities, the Community Coalition on Race has designed the program to ensure that WGEL loan applicants receive counseling, referrals, and reliable support throughout the application and home-buying process. These loans feature a five-year repayment plan with no early penalties, and are designed to provide homebuyers with their funds as quickly as possible, if approved. The Community Coalition is the administrator of the loans.

“I am so excited to partner with the Community Coalition on Race to intentionally recruit and welcome new families to South Orange while doing our part to address the unconscionable racial homeownership disparities that plague New Jersey,” said Sheena Collum, Village President of the Township of South Orange. “The diversity, progressive values, and inclusive nature of our towns are the cornerstone of what makes us so desirable, and this special purpose loan reinforces that commitment.”

Dean Dafis, Mayor of Maplewood Township in New Jersey added, “The Community Coalition’s demonstrated work in equity and integration is further cemented with its new innovative initiative, the Wealth Gap Equalizer Program.  As a housing and social justice advocate and former member of the Coalition’s Residential Committee which conceived this program, I’m particularly excited about and very proud of this strategy to better integrate SOMA with Black and non-White Hispanic first time homeowners.  Congratulations to the Coalition and to SOMA – this is yet another reason to move to South Orange and Maplewood!”

The Coalition also has provided supporting information on the legality of the program: “The Community Coalition on Race’s Residential Committee has spent many months and dollars investigating the legality of our loan offering, and all current indicators point to moving forward,” reports Program Director Audrey Rowe. “Our loan is based on the § 1002.8 Special Purpose Credit Program (SPCP) as defined  under the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which is attached.  We are covered under item 5 in the attached overview program description which states that ‘In designing a special purpose credit program under § 1002.8(a), a for-profit organization must determine that the program will benefit a class of people who would otherwise be denied credit or would receive it on less favorable terms. This determination can be based on a broad analysis using the organization’s own research or data from outside sources, including governmental reports and studies.’ Some of the Community Coalition on Race’s “broad analysis” is included in the attached Special Purpose Plan for the Wealth Gap Equalizer Loan (WGEL).”

To learn more and to apply for the Wealth Gap Equalizer Loan, go to https://choosesoma.com/move/WGEL.

About The South Orange-Maplewood Community Coalition on Race

The South Orange-Maplewood Community Coalition on Race is a nationally recognized non-profit focused on racial integration and inclusion in suburban communities for over 25 years. Founded in 1996 by a diverse group of concerned residents, government members, and business owners, the organization is committed to building and preserving a unique, suburban community that is free of racial segregation in all areas of community life, including housing patterns, schools, leadership, and community involvement.

We envision a community where prospective homebuyers are shown all available homes and are welcomed into our diverse and truly inclusive community made up of individuals of varied races, faiths, and economic backgrounds. The Wealth Gap Equalizer Loan is part of a broad effort to address home-buying inequities in our towns, including a Realtor Equity Town Hall Training program, Unconscious Bias Trainings for organizations, and Conversations on Race. Learn more about our work at www.communitycoalitiononrace.org.

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