Anne Gaviola, Global News, March 6, 2022
Regina Magambo dreams of owning a house.
On Feb.18, the federal government announced $10 million to help 200 Black families, like Magambo’s, in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) purchase a first home.
Homeownership rates among Black Canadians are among the lowest of any racialized group and the BlackNorth Initiative Home Ownership Bridge seeks to counter systemic barriers and help families like Magambo’s break into the market.
Census data from 2016 shows that ownership rates among Black households are nearly 40 per cent– significantly lower than the national homeownership rate of 68 per cent. RBC analysis also suggests that if racialized groups including Black Canadians owned homes at levels comparable to white Canadians, their collective net worth would be boosted by $100 billion.
The BlackNorth housing initiative is set up to reduce the cost of homeownership by pooling funding from different sources, including the federal government, to allow families at a lower income to enter the market.
A 2019 study by RBC found that about 90 per cent of parents with adult children under the age of 35 were providing financial support for their children to afford a home. This phenomenon, sometimes referred to as “the bank of mom and dad” is, according to BlackNorth chairman Wes Hall, less of a factor among Black families who have collectively gotten “a late start” breaking into the housing market.
Working with builders, philanthropists and governments, Hall says selected applicants to the program can build up “sweat equity” — meaning things like working to build up a Black-owned business can be used as credits towards a down payment.
He says the $10 million committed by the federal government entails a loan which applicants must repay to the Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC), though they will have “easier terms with respect to interest rates.”
The novel concept involves a two-mortgage system where the first mortgage is through a conventional lender like a bank or credit union, at market interest rates. A second so-called “silent” mortgage is provided through the BlackNorth Bridge Program which lowers the down payment required and reduces monthly mortgage payments. Applicants pay off the mortgage with the traditional lender in full first before repaying BlackNorth.
Dahabo Ahmed-Omer, the executive director of BlackNorth, says this initiative is part of a multi-pronged strategy to combat systemic factors that have kept many Black families from the path of homeownership.
“We are building a different playbook to address anti-Black racism and eradicate it from our society,” she tells Global News.
“Housing is definitely a core mandate and we wanted to build a program that was going to create wealth and mobility for the Black community.”