By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Correspondent
Bank of America officials have spent the past few months asking their customers and clients a simple question – what would you like to have the power to do?
“For many, the goal is to own a home and saving up for a down payment is the biggest barrier for anyone to buy a home,” said Richard Winter, the vice president and Area Lending Manager for Bank of America’s Baltimore region.
The banking giant has committed to removing that barrier with the announcement of a new $5 billion affordable homeownership initiative for low-to-moderate-income and multicultural homebuyers across the country.
“Our commitment to affordable and responsible homeownership is greater than ever, with half of our loans going to low- to moderate-income or multicultural families and communities,” D. Steve Boland, head of consumer lending at Bank of America, said in a statement.
“One of the ways we’re helping is through our suite of affordable homeownership solutions and professional resources, which aid them in overcoming barriers and put sustainable homeownership within reach,” Boland said.
Over the next five years the bank has committed $5 billion to its Bank of America Neighborhood Solutions program which they said will help more than 20,000 individuals and families thrive through the power of homeownership.
The Neighborhood Solutions program focuses on helping put people on the path to affordable homeownership and sustainable homeownership through a combination of specially designed products, resources and expertise.
The bank is also offering a new Affordable Loan Solution mortgage – a competitive fixed-rate loan for low- and moderate-income borrowers.
Primarily targeting first-time buyers, the down payment on the Affordable Loan Solution mortgage would be as little as 3 percent, with no mortgage insurance required.
“Through our new Down Payment Grant program, Bank of America will give – no repayment necessary – eligible homebuyers 3 percent of the home purchase price (up to $10,000) to be used for a down payment,” Winter said.
The program arrives at a time when various studies and reports, including one from the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), show that all the gains made by black homeowners since the Civil Rights era have been erased.
The homeownership rate for black households ended 2016 at 41.7 percent, near a 50-year low, according to the U.S. Census Bureau – a figure NAREB said hadn’t been this low since the time when housing discrimination was legal.
The current black homeownership rate is now 30.5 percentage points lower than non-Hispanic whites (72.2 percent) and 22 percentage points lower than the national homeownership rate of 63.7 percent.
It’s also 4.6 percentage points lower than the Hispanic homeownership rate.
“We have long been committed to providing a path to sustainable homeownership for all, but especially for low- to moderate-income (LMI) and multicultural clients,” Winter said.
“Homeownership is one of the most powerful ways to shrink the wealth gap,” he said, noting that the median net worth of a homeowner is 44 times that of a renter, according to a 2017 Federal Reserve report.
“Today, more than half our loans go to LMI and multicultural clients, but we know we can do more,” Winter said.
The new Bank of America program includes down payment and closing cost assistance; innovative low down payment mortgages; grants that can be applied to non-recurring closing costs; a national network of lending professionals; easy-to-understand financial education tools; strategic partnerships with real estate professionals; and a national network of knowledgeable affordable housing nonprofit partners who provide in-depth homebuyer education and counseling.
“We know that many people today can afford a monthly mortgage payment, but that securing the upfront costs of homeownership can be a significant challenge,” Winter said.
“We also know that low down payment loans on their own aren’t going to solve the biggest barrier to homeownership, so our new Down Payment Grant program, along with our existing closing cost grants we believe will make an even greater difference, particularly since eligible clients can combine programs to reduce upfront costs,” he said.
The most important thing for Baltimore residents to know about the program is that there are many options available, Winter said.
“Anyone who is thinking about buying a home should go to bankofamerica.com and make an appointment with one of our mortgage specialists at a nearby financial center and they can walk them through all the options that are available,” he said.