She’s almost halfway there!
A Missouri real estate agent is looking to create 1,000 Black homeowners in Kansas City, NPR reports.
Tenesia Brown was in the real estate business for nearly 15 years before she discovered her true purpose. A cancer diagnosis caused Brown to re-evaluate her life and re-examine ways she could contribute to the world outside of herself.
“It was just like, ‘Wow, what do you want to be known for? You know, if I was to die today, what would someone say in my eulogy?’ And I was thinking, ‘That she likes to have fun.’ It wasn’t a lot that I felt like they could say. So my purpose was given to me,” recalled Brown.
That’s when she came up with the mission to create 1,000 Black homeowners in her native home of Kansas City. Brown saw the way gentrification was ravaging Kansas City’s east side where she grew up, and as a child who moved around a lot, she knew the importance of stable housing. So she set out to help longtime renters turn into first-time buyers, focusing specifically on Black and brown renters in Kansas City’s urban core. One of her early success stories was Tae Yeager, a mother of three who purchased her first home through Brown before getting her own real estate license and deciding to work in real estate under her.
“I met Tenesia when she helped me buy my own personal house. So I think that’s where my journey began... To be able to have that example who leads us, she’s been through it, she’s been through the same community and helping to bridge that gap where, you know, ‘No, you can own that home. You don’t have to rent for the rest of your life. You can leave that land for the next generation.’ I think that representation is very important for all of us, because like I said, what was home ownership to us growing up? Nobody ever taught it to us,” said Yeager.
Yeager is one of the hundreds of success stories under Brown, the Missouri real estate agent looking to create a movement that impacts the Black homeownership gap. During the pandemic, homeownership was on the rise and the housing market was thriving. However, while the U.S. saw its largest annual increase on record, the gap between Black and white homeowners grew, the National Association of Realtors reporting that there are fewer Black homeowners now than a decade ago and a nearly 30% gap between Black and white homeowners which is larger today than it was in the 60s.
This gap has several contributing factors, the biggest being access to wealth coupled with issues like securing financing through banks.
"Homeownership, as you know, transfers from parent to children…And one of the greatest barriers that Black households face when accessing homeownership is that they have a lack of wealth. I think the most recent Survey of Consumer Finances data shows that Black households only hold one-eighth of the wealth compared to the white households. So it’s really difficult for [Black homebuyers] to save up to down payment,” said Jung Choi, a senior research associate for the Urban Institute.
That’s why initiatives like what Brown is doing and the Greenline Initiative, another Black-owned company looking to bolster Black homeownership, are so important. In addition to helping people secure their first home, Brown also hosts weekly informational sessions for anyone looking to buy, regular networking events and seminars, and the bi-annual Kansas City Homes Bus tour which shows interested buyers homes for sale in the urban core and connects them with lenders in the city.
In the four years since Brown started this initiative, she is almost halfway to her mark of 1,000 new Black homeowners in Kansas City. Recently, she opened an office in St. Louis to begin her mission again in a new city. Brown believes wholeheartedly that creating more Black homeowners will change the city’s landscape and once she hits her goal, she plans to celebrate big and set her sights on something even grander. For now, she’s focused on seeing her mission through to the end.
"Once you’re stable, because you now own a property, it makes life a little easier. It takes stress off of you. It does a lot for not just you, but your entire family once you’ve been stabilized. I believe that with the pride in home ownership and being invested in the community or in the block or in the neighborhood, then that kind of helps with stabilizing neighborhoods, which stabilizes cities and brings businesses to those areas. And it’s just like a trickle-down effect," said Brown.
To learn more about Brown’s initiative and her Keys Realty business, click here.
Photo Courtesy of Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga/NPR