By Erin Hassanzadeh

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — If you’re house shopping right now, you know how competitive the market is. Inventory in the metro is still low and it’s more important than ever to be prepared before you start shopping around.

But a local nonprofit started by a group of St. Paul neighbors four decades ago is still helping Minnesotans get into the homes of their dreams.

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A few months ago after renting for years, Saulsberry found the house with enough room for her and her 155-pound dog, Biggie.

“I woke up one morning and I got a ding on my phone, and I looked and I was like, ‘Oh, this might be the house,'” said Lori Saulsberry of Minneapolis.

But it’s still a sellers’ market, and the downpayment was intimidating.

“I was outbidded four times,” said Saulsberry. “I’ve looked high and low for a house I could afford in an area I was comfortable in.”

That’s where NeighborWorks Home Partners stepped in. The nonprofit helps roughly 1,000 Minnesotans each year with things like downpayment assistance, credit repair, preparing to buy a home, and budgeting, especially for first-time homebuyers and People of Color.

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“In the United States, home ownership is the way that American families build wealth, and if you’ve been excluded from that, you’ve missed that opportunity,” said Amanda Welliver.

According to a report published by the Urban Institute, about seven in 10 white families in the Twin Cities own their homes. For Black families it is roughly two out of 10, representing the largest gap in the country.

“That can be due to predatory lending. It can be due to the persistent effects of redlining,” said Welliver. “Especially if your expenses are higher, because you’re paying high rent, it can be hard to accumulate enough savings for that downpayment.”

With the boost from NeighborWorks, Saulsberry now pays less every month and has a place she can put her stamp on.

“A lot of people don’t know about it, but they should because it’s huge,” said Saulsberry. “More People of Color really need to start building wealth, and that’s in home ownership.”

NeighborWorks also helps homeowners stay in their homes. It’s expecting the need for their free foreclosure prevention counseling sessions to pick up in the coming months.

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Erin Hassanzadeh