In order for the U.S. to diversify the housing industry, the mortgage industry needs to look at the demographics of the country and prioritize attracting talent from diverse places, according to Tai Christensen, the new chair of the American Mortgage Diversity Council and Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at CBC Mortgage Agency.
In a recent interview with DiversityInc, Christensen said to acquire diverse and unique talent, mortgage professionals need to stop recruiting people from the same socioeconomic class, race and gender. They need to recruit from the HBCUs, women’s colleges, junior colleges and job fairs in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods.
“There are places you can go to acquire diverse and unique talent that does not look like the people already in your office, but that hopefully do look like the neighborhoods we’re trying to service as we grow and expand and diversify,” she said.
So just how many home buyers are people of color? According to Christensen, the Latino community makes up the fastest-growing demographic of homebuyers and they will be “responsible for the majority of home purchasing over the next 20 years.” This is exactly why the mortgage community needs to diversify.
“Where are we going to recruit talent that is Spanish-speaking?” she asked. “Most of these people, English is their second language. If we’re working with originators, we want to be able to communicate in a language that is primary for the borrowers we want to serve.”
She added that talent acquisition is where she’s putting her focus so that the mortgage industry in 20 years “looks more inclusive and dynamic than it does right now.”
Bridging the Racial Housing Gap
In addition to serving as CBC Mortgage’s DEI Officer, Christensen is also the agency’s Director of Government Affairs, which has given her access to speak with policymakers, lawmakers and other housing advocates. She has used that opportunity to discuss the racial disparity when it comes to housing.
She said the role also allowed her to “talk a lot about appraisal bias, default rates with minority communities, and really get a firm grip on what’s going on in our communities of color when it comes to housing.”
The Black homeowner rate is approximately 42%, which is the lowest homeownership rate of any racial demographic. The white homeownership rate is currently at 73%.
With the changing demographic in the country and mortgage professionals serving more minorities, Christensen said it’s time to bring attention to the racial wealth gap.
“At AMDC, we do everything we can to bring awareness to the racial wealth gap, the racial homeownership gap and the lack of diversity in the mortgage industry,” she said.
Christensen added that working with Congress and being on Capitol Hill, being familiar with this racial wealth gap and homeownership gap data points and “bringing all that wealth of knowledge will help expand our message with AMDC and hopefully expand the people we’re able to provide our message to.”
While the mortgage industry knows the Black homeownership rate is at only 42%, Christensen said it’s important to share that message outside of the industry.
“Does the Black community know that? Does the Latin community know they’re the fastest-growing demographic and they are going to be the largest racial group to buy homes over the next 20 years? Are we getting that message to our consumers so they feel empowered to buy homes, so they feel empowered to be a part of this wealth creation through homeownership? That’s what I really want to do with AMDC and I feel like my work on Capitol Hill is a nice nexus to that,” she said.
Helping Minorities Become Homeowners in a Changing Market
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people were sent to work from home and realized that the cute little studio apartment they were sharing with their partner and their pets in New York City was now a little tight. These people sold their properties and moved to places like Montana where they could afford a significantly larger home on a decent-sized piece of land.
These situations made it much harder for people of color to purchase homes because the market increased, housing prices increased and there were a lot of cash buyers.
“That’s very difficult to compete with when you’re a minority and you don’t have access to cash resources,” Christensen said.
To help minorities still buy in a hectic housing market, Christensen said education is key. CBC Mortgage Agency has two minority housing initiatives that provide education to borrowers and the industry as a whole has “started to really focus on this message of educating our communities of color so that they know the changing market and feel empowered to make those decisions without getting frustrated.”
She added that it is very difficult when you’re a young person and you don’t have the education to know where the market is and the changes the market is experiencing.
Right now, markets are starting to slow a little bit and while interest rates are rising, that might not be a problem for you based on where you live or where you’re looking to buy.
How do you feel empowered to make these decisions unless you’ve been educated?” she asked. “Again, if you have the education, you feel empowered to make those decisions.”