N E W S  R E L E A S E

For Immediate Release:  

September 22, 2020 
Contact: Cristian Salazar, cristian.salazar@cnycn.org

Katie Groenke, katie.groenke@berlinrosen.com 

Center for NYC Neighborhoods Receives $2.5 Million Award to Develop a Digital Product for Mortgage Lending to Increase Racial Equity in the Homebuyer Market

Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge by Enterprise Community Partners and Wells Fargo names six winners out of nearly 900 applications from across the U.S. 

New York – Enterprise Community Partners (Enterprise) and Wells Fargo today named Center for NYC Neighborhoods one of the six winners of the Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge, a nationwide competition that began in January 2020 to find the most innovative and scalable solutions to increase housing affordability across the U.S. The six winning organizations will each receive $2 million in grants and two years of technical assistance valued at $500,000, facilitated by Enterprise, to realize their innovative concepts. 

“We are all working within a segregated system of mortgage lending that routinely blocks people of color, particularly Black borrowers, from accessing homeownership altogether, let alone on equitable credit terms,” said Christie Peale, CEO and Executive Director of Center for NYC Neighborhoods. “With this funding, we will be able to provide a solution: a nationally scalable mortgage underwriting approach that will change how lenders see people, giving them the opportunity to build wealth through homeownership at a fair price.”

The digital platform will harness cutting edge financial technology, or fintech, to affirmatively address racial inequity and reduce the racial wealth gap by using a complex, evolving dataset that provides a comprehensive picture of borrowers’ current capacity  — unlike traditional automated underwriting systems that look at FICO scores based on past actions and more limited datasets. Ultimately, the platform will deliver a balanced assessment of an applicant’s credit strengths and weaknesses so they have a clear path towards a sustainable, affordable loan that works for them and their lender.

The Center for NYC Neighborhoods is a leading nonprofit focused on promoting and protecting affordable homeownership in New York. Founded in response to the 2008 mortgage foreclosure crisis, the Center has built a network of community-based organizations that have partnered with government agencies to respond to other crises, including Hurricane Sandy and COVID-19. The organization applies the lenses of racial equity and climate justice to systemic problems — and tackles them with public advocacy, consumer education, and direct homeowner programs. 

From 2010 to 2019, the Center implemented the New York State-Mortgage Assistance Program, growing it from a small, New York City-based pilot to a state-wide program that loaned over $80 million in just three years. The nonprofit did this through its wholly owned subsidiary, Sustainable Neighborhoods LLC, a CDFI that lends to borrowers who are not served by mainstream financial institutions. They have a mission-focus on Black homeownership — while Black families are only 9% of homeowners statewide, they represent a third of our borrowers. All told, Sustainable Neighborhoods has made over 3,000 loans, helped nearly 150,000 homeowners, and provided $109 million in direct assistance to New York families. 

The Center will partner with Moutainview Advisors, which brings deep lending tech and mortgage expertise to the project, and other partners, to be selected. 

The competition drew close to 900 highly competitive applications from 49 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. After two application rounds, 15 finalists were invited to offer a detailed application proposal and present a 10-minute virtual pitch to an independent panel of judges composed of leading national affordable housing and community development experts. The judges heard five pitches for each of the Breakthrough Challenge’s three focus areas – Housing Construction, Housing Finance, and Resident Services and Support. Finally, six winners were chosen, two from each focus area.

The other competition grant winners are: cdcb come dream. come build. (Texas), Forterra NW (Washington), Gulf Coast Housing Partnership (Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi), Preservation of Affordable Housing (Ohio, Massachusetts, Missouri) and Impact Justice (California).

“Housing affordability is directly tied to racial equity and both are urgent issues fundamentally impacting every community in our country. That is what makes the Breakthrough Challenge so important right now,” said Priscilla Almodovar, chief executive officer at Enterprise Community Partners. “We’re thrilled to support our grantees and the next generation of housing solutions through these six visionary proposals. Enterprise is incredibly grateful for the generous financial resources and tremendous expertise brought by the Wells Fargo team throughout the competition.”

“Too often good ideas are overlooked because they need expertise and resources to bring them to scale,” said Nate Hurst, president of the Wells Fargo Foundation. “We are delighted to join Enterprise Community Partners to engage creative innovators with know-how, technical skill, and imagination, who are now awarded catalytic funding to transform their housing affordability ideas into real solutions on the ground.”

The Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge is part of Wells Fargo’s $1 billion commitment to support housing affordability solutions nationwide by 2025. 

Entrants were asked to specifically demonstrate how their breakthrough ideas addressed racial equity and environmental considerations. The applications varied widely, demonstrating a commitment to reframing approaches to single-family and multifamily housing challenges and addressing the wide-ranging needs of homeowners, renters, children, youth, families and seniors in communities across the United States. 

For more information on the competition, as well as the finalists and their winning proposals, visit the Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge website.

For more information on the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, visit cnycn.org.