While housing and the current state of the economy continue to be topics of discussion across communities in Madison, Myesha Thompson, with her experience in both the financial and real estate field, is looking to support aspiring Black and brown homeowners in her new role as director of Own It: Building Black Wealth, a privately-funded Madison organization that supports community members of color throughout the process of buying a home and building wealth.
Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Thompson has spent time in Wisconsin working for the state along with working as a licensed financial advisor and insurance agent. With personal experiences around looking to purchase a home and speaking with others looking to do the same, Thompson is not unfamiliar with what it takes to approach the prospect.
“I noticed when meeting with my insurance clients that the education regarding financial literacy was just missing,” Thompson told Madison365. “Once I heard about the wealth-building course and the homeownership course Own It was offering, I thought, ‘this is exactly what I’m doing with my clients. Let me get on board with Own It.’ I love the fact that with Own It, the wealth building and home ownership courses are led and taught by Black and brown leaders in our community, which is very different. It’s community centered, and has a racial justice framework.”
With experience working for the state around food security and health, Thompson spoke about how many aspects of wealth come from addressing other important areas. Own It: Building Black Wealth is designed to eliminate substantial barriers to wealth and homeownership for Black families in the greater Madison area. Families are able to receive guidance that is focused and personalized. With a hands-on approach and a team of experts across areas leading to home ownership, the process looks to provide support, and intentionally prepare families to take on the responsibility of owning a home.
“They go through the questionnaire, and then the participant gets a notification of when the first wealth-building class would be available to them
,” Thompson said of the multi-month-long process. “Our process basically consists of filling out the application, and the participants join the wealth-building class. They go through our wealth-building course first which consists of 6 lessons, [and then] they have to be matched with a mentor. They meet with that mentor, and after they complete their session with their mentor, they can be enrolled in what we call a financial literacy cohort which is voluntary and is meant to be a tool to further support the participants’ understanding of financials. From there, they are able to enroll in the homeownership course, which is two sessions and part of one of those sessions requires them to complete a HUD-certified training for homeownership.”
The causes for the historically low levels of homeownership for Black and brown communities in Madison vary across systemic and historic reasons. Racial disparities in accumulated household wealth and inheritance are a large factor, especially in making a large down payment for a house. Black and brown home ownership is valuable to strengthening communities of color along with establishing a draw for community members to stay and help develop Madison as a city. While Own It is currently a program for families, staff, and alumni of One City Schools, Thompson is hoping to expand the opportunity as they develop as an organization, and advises those looking towards buying a home themselves to start with the experts.
“Any great lender will advise you where you are and where you need to be to be able to get to the point to purchase a home,” said Thompson. “They can run your credit and say, ‘This is the criteria that we look for when it comes to credit, and that most lenders look for when it comes to credit. This is the requirement that we look for when it comes to the debt-to-income ratio. These are the things that are on your credit that are harming you and may impact your rate when you go to purchase due to these things being on your credit. If you are able to get X, Y and Z removed from your credit before you actually go into the home buying process, this may be able to help you.’
“Your lender obviously lends money to you, but they are also, to some extent, an adviser to you, because they know the underlying criteria,” she added.
Thompson herself is no stranger to working with families financially. As a property owner, Thompson practices the same principles she is looking to carry out through Own It by working with the families she rents to in managing finances and meeting goals. Thompson spoke of how having the right people with the right knowledge in the right places can have a crucial impact on opening up resources and opportunities to Black and brown communities.
“There are people that are in the rooms, the institutions, and organizations who are Black and brown who are saying, ‘We are here, and we’re willing to help,’ and they actually are helping,” Thompson said. “Which I feel is helping the overall goal which is to increase the number of Black and brown families that are able to attain wealth in home ownership. I foresee that continuing to grow, as long as we have those people in those industries and in those settings who are willing to continue to help. And we have people who are willing to learn, people who are eager to change their situation, and people who are not deterred away from this opportunity at the first sight of something going wrong, because it’s not an easy process. Which is why we offer mentorship, sort of as a support, because you’re gonna need it.”
Tiffany Malone, one of the co-founders of Own It, also spoke to the exciting future ahead for Thompson’s work as director, telling Madison365, “Our down payment fund is a specific and critical aspect to changing the narrative and breaking real barriers to homeownership for Black and brown families in the Madison area. And it didn’t take long to prove that it works. Hiring Myesha to serve as the director means we are closer to expanding Own It locally; that is what the community is calling for. It’s exciting!”
Determination is a crucial aspect in the process of home ownership. Thompson shared how setting goals and educating yourself are important aspects, too, and ultimately, it will take going through some obstacles along the way.
“Don’t take that ‘no,’ and just say, ‘You know what, I’m just gonna give up,’” said Thompson. “You keep going until you get that ‘yes,’ because you will get it. I feel like that needs to be said and needs to be put out there because discouragement is at an all-time high for Black and brown people right now. Stay encouraged and walk in faith, and continue to work towards whatever is for you. Remember what’s for you is what’s for you and noone can take that away.”
To learn more about Own It, check out their website here.