Mentorship program targets barriers to BIPOC homeownership

Program will provide participants with added insights into the home-buying process in effort to narrow Olmsted County's homeownership gap.

Community codesigners gathered by the Coalition for Rochester Area Housing meet at the Rochester Area Foundation offices to discuss the dispartity between the rate of homeownership among white households and the lower rate among BIPOC households.

ROCHESTER — A BIPOC homeowner mentorship program has emerged in response to racial disparities in local homeownership.

A 2020 Olmsted County housing needs analysis pointed to the county as having one of the largest racial homeownership gaps in the nation. While 77% of white households in the county own their own home, only 22% of Black households have achieved homeownership.

Census data shows a statewide 26% gap between white households and the combined Black, Indigenous and people of color households.

With 77.5% of white households owning a home, compared to 51.5% of BIPOC households, it is the fifth-largest gap in the nation.

Last year, the Coalition of Rochester Area Housing took a look at the disparity, enlisting a team of 10 Black, Indigenous and people of color residents with varying backgrounds related to homeownership to discuss the issue and take questions into the community for considerations.


The group identified several barriers to BIPOC homeownership, as well as suggested paths for overcoming the current gap.

One member, Deon Oden, said a key challenge is raising awareness of homeownership opportunities and benefits.

“African American people and other minorities don’t fully understand the value of owning a home,” said Oden, who is a homeowner and a mortgage loan officer at Coulee Bank.

Three-fourths of white households in Olmsted County own their homes, but less than one-quarter of black households own their homes.

Creating a mentorship program was among the recommendations cited in the group’s 2022 report as a way of raising awareness and helping more people move into homeownership.

Coalition Executive Director JoMarie Morris announced the official launch of the resulting mentorship program Friday, in partnership with Three Rivers Community Action, but she hinted at it during a recent presentation to Olmsted County commissioners.

“One of the things I’m really excited about is our BIPOC homeowner codesigners for this project, all of them have agreed to stay on and serve as an advisory council to launch the program and also serve as advisors as we move forward,” she said.

The pilot program is expected to enhance Three Rivers’ existing Achieve Homeownership program by adding a mentorship component to its current program.

“Having an additional mentor adds a more personal touch, because the home-seeker will now have a peer that just went through the process of buying and will give them more insight and personal feedback,” Three Rivers Homeownership Advisor Diana Cardenas said.


The current Achieve Homeownership program provides homebuyer education, counseling, and down payment assistance, and the Three Rivers Achieve team consists of trained advisors who are bilingual and reflect the communities the program aims to serve.

“This will help keep families motivated and engaged by families who already went through the process,” Three Rivers Lead Advisor Joann Covarrubias said. “Sometimes families don’t think they can do it and having someone that can relate to them will truly be beneficial to getting first-time homebuyers to the finish line.”

The pilot is designed to serve up to 20 BIPOC households from the Rochester area enrolled in the Achieve Homeownership program.

Anyone interested in enrolling in the Achieve Homeownership program should call or text homeownership advisor Yenai Collazo at 507-696-5755.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or
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