Kansas City real estate agent Tenesia Brown has turned a negative into a positive after a cancer diagnosis left her five years ago, given her heritage. Faced with her own mortality, Brown wondered how the black community she loved so much would remember her, then decided the most impactful mark she could leave would be to convert 1,000 of her tenants into landlords. .
In 2017, Brown, already a Missouri real estate veteran, formed Key’s Realty Group and moved her suburban-based realtor to the eastern Kansas City community she grew up in, according to KCUR. Brown was even more motivated to advocate for homeownership based on her own experience as a child constantly on the move with her mother.
“We probably moved about every three to six months, and I probably went to almost every elementary school here in Kansas City,” Brown told KCUR.. “It’s hard enough for a kid to be the new one everywhere you go and in every neighborhood.”
Key’s Realty has a predominantly black, all-female staff. Earlier this year, Brown opened a second office in St. Louis. She said her agency is almost halfway to its goal.
“Once you’re stable, because you now own property, it makes life a little bit easier. It relieves you of stress,” Brown told KCUR.. “It does a lot not just for you, but for your whole family once you’ve stabilized. I believe that with pride in ownership and being invested in the community or the block or the neighborhood helps stabilize neighborhoods, which stabilizes cities and brings businesses into those areas. And it’s just like a trickle down effect.
Gentrification has impacted black communities across the country, and Kansas City is no exception. Brown saw developers encroaching on his old neighborhood, and that factored into his mission as well. KCUR cited a recent study showing the black homeownership gap widened in 2020 despite historically low mortgage rates and a seller’s market that led buyers to pay thousands of dollars above prices. required to secure homes. The gap between black and white homeownership is now nearly 30%, higher than it was in the 1960s, the study found.
Greenline Initiative founder Ajia Morris is also working to create more black landlords. The Kansas City-based company focuses on renovating run-down properties and helping owners finance using community funds rather than banks. She says working with agents like Brown, changing what qualifies buyers to buy a home can help more renters become homeowners.
“We want to take those things out of determining creditworthiness, take those things out of determining your interest rate,” Morris told KCUR. “Because that way you have a fair chance at home ownership, especially if you come from a low-income community. It’s mildly offensive to add extra burden and cost to them for things they can’t control. »
New owner Tae Yaeger is just one example of Brown’s impact on the community. The mother of three not only bought a house through Brown, but also got her real estate license and is now working with her.
“To be able to have that example to guide us, she went through it,” Yeager said, “she went through the same community and helped bridge that gap until, you know, ‘No, you can own this house. You don’t have to rent for the rest of your life. You can leave this land to the next generation. I think representation is very important to all of us, because like I said, what is homeownership for us growing up? Nobody ever taught us that.
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