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Two Denver-area organizations clear the path to homeownership for Black buyers

NerdWallet Down Payment Stress
Posted at 8:42 AM, Feb 28, 2022

DENVER — The current housing market could be tough on any buyer. But those who are also facing institutional barriers to homeownership may experience even more difficulty.

That’s why two Denver-area organizations teamed up to make homeownership more accessible to the Black community in the region.

Valery Keys, a military veteran and single mother, says the program couldn’t have come at a better time.

“I am a Navy veteran and I’ve been at my job for eight years,” she said. “[I'm] working really hard like a lot of people, paycheck to paycheck.”

Keys said she was never quite able to get ahead after a divorce and three kids.

“As a single mom, with the rental prices going up significantly every year, it’s like you can never catch up,” Keys said.

Keys was exactly the type of person Cleo Lewis, who runs Central Park Mortgage and the Open Hands Foundation, had in mind when she decided to help families achieve their dreams of homeownership.

“Owning your own home, it literally allows you to soar financially,” Lewis said. “It allows you to have a legacy for your family, and statistics show that those who are able to own their own homes, they are in a better financial situation.”

Lewis’s organization received a $25,000 grant from the Metro Diversity and Economic Equity Partners. It’s a group that helps Black people in the Denver region achieve financial well-being.

Lewis put that money towards helping five families fix their credit so they could qualify to purchase homes.

“Sometimes they had different things on their credit that was affecting their score, like maybe outstanding collections or medical bills, high credit card balances that they weren’t able to take care of themselves,” Lewis explained.

Nicole Blaylock with the Open Hands Initiative says the families learn so much throughout the process.

“We were able to help educate our borrowers in terms of the process, what's required, and why and how all of these things play together and impact one another,” Blaylock said.

Keys said the program gave her exactly what she needed.

“We want to get out of the situation that’s not going anywhere,” Keys said. “Renting, creating wealth for someone else--and that’s exactly what the Open Hand Initiative was for me. It was a hand up.”

Keys said that support will go a long way.

“Of course, I got a home out of it, but I also have a legacy for my children,” she said.

The Open Hands Initiative wants to help more families get into homes. You can donate to their GoFundMe account by visiting the site.