Bridging the Homeownership Gap Through Collaborative and Collective Efforts–Sponsored Content from MGIC

Irma Yépez Klassen

There’s something different in the air.

Within the last 3 to 4 years, there’s been a genuine interest and growth in cross-sector collaboration on solving the persistent disparities that exist in homeownership rates between white and minority households. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in recent years, Hispanic (49.8%) and Black (45.9%) homeownership rates have shown slight gains yet are still behind the non-Hispanic White homeownership rate (73.8%).

These persistent statistics compelled us to do more to help bridge the racial/ethnic gap in homeownership. As the pioneer of modern private mortgage insurance, MGIC knows equitable access to homeownership opens doors to family stability, improved education, financial well-being and safer neighborhoods.

Like many in our industry, we began a shared journey of learning and understanding what it will take to help underrepresented populations build wealth through sustainable, affordable homeownership.

Active engagement for positive change

Our equitable homeownership strategy centers on actively engaging and collaborating with community and industry stakeholders in 4 key areas: policy, research, products/programs, and partnerships. Our goal is to increase the number of families prepared and ready to purchase, and to expand opportunities for creditworthy homebuyers (especially those who might not have thought owning a home was possible).

In all areas, we’ve found that cross-industry collaboration and collective action are essential to truly move the needle in breaking down systemic barriers and addressing issues impacting most communities, such as appraisal gaps, housing supply and affordability, credit barriers, resources to support homebuyer preparedness, and down payment assistance. 

Benefits of collective action

Participation in collective efforts that address housing challenges in your target communities can provide the following benefits:

Awareness – Participation will increase your awareness of the real issues facing communities of color and the organizations that are working to address these issues. This increased awareness may result in partnerships you never imagined and creative solutions.

Credibility – Being an engaged and purposeful participant on important topics impacting your community will boost your organization’s credibility among other key community stakeholders and will continue to deliver long-term benefits as you become a contributor to the solution.

Purpose – Stepping beyond lending and participating as a stakeholder in a community-based collective effort takes the mission of helping families achieve their dreams of homeownership to the next level.

How your organization can get involved

Not every company is at the same stage on their journey towards equitable homeownership. Regardless of whether your company is in the early phase of this initiative or further along the path, there are plenty of opportunities to join in and contribute to finding a solution.

Collaborate with national partners

You can partner with national trade groups at both the local and national levels, like the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), and the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), that offer opportunities for collaboration through local chapters, regional and national conferences, and special initiatives.

Here are two impressive examples of collective action at work today:

The MBA launched place-based initiative CONVERGENCE in Memphis in March 2020, followed by Columbus (July 2021) and then Philadelphia (May 2023).

CONVERGENCE brings together professionals from different sectors, such as lenders, real estate agents, universities, local community groups, government partners and other housing industry participants, to collaborate and facilitate new solutions.

One of the many goals of CONVERGENCE is to share the successful implementations taking place. Doing this provides a cross-pollination of ideas that can expand the impact of efforts beyond the local level.

Another collaborative effort taking place on the national and local levels is Project REACh (Roundtable for Economic Access and Change), led by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), to promote financial inclusion. It brings together leaders from the banking industry, national civil rights organizations, businesses, and technology to find solutions to help expand access to capital in underrepresented communities. Some issues being addressed include: 

Exploring alternative credit assessment methods 

Expanding homeownership opportunities

Special purpose credit programs (SPCPs)

Reviewing appraisal practices

Increasing diversity in the appraisal industry via career pathways

Project REACh has demonstration projects in Dallas, D.C., Detroit, Los Angeles and Milwaukee. MGIC is engaged in the national and Milwaukee-area REACh efforts.

Like the CONVERGENCE initiatives, the main driver for Project REACh is the sharing of new solutions, like SPCPs, introduced by participating lenders so that others may learn from their experience and be encouraged to implement them within the communities they serve. 

Start in your own backyard

You can start by asking community partners in your area if there’s an existing local effort you can plug into.

In our hometown of Milwaukee, we are part of a collective action effort to address racial equity challenges in homeownership. One way we’re defining success is by meaningfully closing the homeownership gaps that exist between Black, Latino and White households in the city. The initiative is led by the Community Development Alliance (CDA), an affiliation of community development funders and practitioners, that has collaborated on neighborhood improvement efforts since 2010 and is driven by its Collective Affordable Housing Plan. We work closely with community stakeholders to advance the Plan through active workgroup participation, sharing of technical expertise, and analytical and research support.

MGIC supported research at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to quantify and better understand the contributing factors impacting the financial benefits of homeownership in lower-income and majority–minority neighborhoods. Our hope is that understanding these factors might inform Milwaukee’s collective policy and social investment activities aimed at closing disparities in wealth creation and ensure that successful long-term homeownership does, in fact, create wealth regardless of race and ethnicity. (Read the report.)

With concentrated effort, reducing the homeownership gap is possible. Five years ago, a local Milwaukee homeownership organization actively engaged in Milwaukee’s collective effort and committed to increasing the number of Black families they supported in achieving homeownership after recognizing they made up only 20% (131) of all their homebuyers. They knew changes to their approach were necessary and sought additional resources to introduce “educational cohorts,” a matched savings program, and down payment assistance programs – all developed using customer feedback and shared learning – to help families overcome credit, savings and affordability barriers. Low pandemic-era interest rates and collaboration helped to amplify the organization’s services among peers and within the community. In 2023, Black families made up 54% of all their homebuyers (334) achieving homeownership. 

Building bridges to bridge the gap

We all understand the importance of helping underserved populations build wealth through sustainable, equitable homeownership. The most effective way for us to bridge the gap is to come together, to be open to understanding the challenges, and to share ideas, lessons learned, and best practices that can collectively serve as a framework for more communities…

And help more people of color finally realize their dream of owning their own home.

For more resources on equitable homeownership, including our ARCS (Awareness, Readiness, Community and Solutions) framework for developing a plan of action, visit

Irma Yépez Klassen

Irma Yépez Klassen has over 25 years of experience working collaboratively with the private, public, and nonprofit sectors on economic development and affordable housing. She joined MGIC in 2022 as a director of product development, leading local and national strategy efforts on equitable homeownership, including developing affordable lending programs and strategic partnerships. Prior to MGIC, Irma led the strategic development of place-based grants aimed at increasing quality affordable housing and the economic well-being of residents in three majority Black and Latino neighborhoods for the Zilber Family Foundation. She also served as the housing policy director for the City of Milwaukee and held leadership positions at two nonprofit NeighborWorks organizations. Irma is actively involved in many local and national financial empowerment and affordable housing initiatives and collective efforts. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Marquette University.

Sources: the U.S. Census Bureau Quarterly Residential Vacancy and Homeownership Report, Q4 2023; the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System 2022 Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF).

(Sponsored content includes material submitted independently of the Mortgage Bankers Association and MBA NewsLink and does not connote an MBA endorsement of a specific company, product or service. For more information about sponsored content opportunities, contact Bill Farmakis at or 203/834-8832.)