Philadelphia Metropolitan Board of Realist hosts Community Wealth Building Day in Mt. Airy

MT. AIRY — While Northwest Philadelphia families often have a reputation for living in their own homes, some in Mt. Airy, Germantown and West Oak Lane are no longer homeowners. Some local residents desire to put down permanent roots but cannot seem to be able to purchase their own home. This is especially true for locals of color.

That is why the Philadelphia Metropolitan Board of Realist held its Community Wealth Building Day on the campus of the New Covenant Church, located at 7500 Germantown Ave. in Mt. Airy, Saturday, Sept. 22.

Dozens of prospective homeowners and real estate developers were on hand for the program titled “Building Black Wealth Through Homeownership.”

“Thank you for coming to this wealth building event,” said Arlene Wayns-Thomas, of Mt. Airy, in her opening remarks. Wayns-Thomas is the local president of PMBR and the regional vice president of Region 3 of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers. With the latter, she represents those in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia.

Wayns-Thomas drew applause when she noted this year was the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. Yet she also pointed out that currently the homeownership rate for African Americans is at the same 41 percent as it was in 1968.

“This is devastating because this is the primary way we build wealth in our community,” Wayns-Thomas said. “When you own a home, you can pass it to the next generation. This makes for a stronger community and gives the family more stability.”

Andrew Grannum, a pastoral team member at New Covenant Church, delivered the welcome for the event. Community advocate Marion Johnson, of Mt. Airy, read the biography for Councilman-at-Large Derek Green. Both Johnson and Green are well-known in the community because they were staffers for former Ninth District Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco, also of Mt. Airy.

“When I worked for the councilwoman, I had firsthand experience with zoning,” Johnson said.

He said he is aware of the concerns of many neighbors in Northwest Philadelphia around the conversion of single-family homes into multiple-family dwellings and apartment houses. He also listed the many community organizations and issues they have had with zoning in the community. Thus, he stressed the need for concerned citizens to attend zoning meetings rather than complain about the changes to their community after the rezoning has taken place.

Michelle Lewis, of the nonprofit Northwest Counseling Center, spoke about cash assets. She went into detail about what a mortgage is and home loans. She pointed out the early payments on one’s mortgage go to interest and it is not until many years later that one actually starts to pay off the house. Consequently, she stressed the need to negotiate lower interest rates and discussed the programs available for those who temporarily cannot meet their mortgage payments.

After Darlene Meekins conducted a round of real estate bingo, Ken Bigos, of the Affordable Housing Council Center of Pennsylvania, spoke. He warned prospective and current homeowners about fraudulent contractors who will either take their money and not do any services or will drastically overcharge for home maintenance. He laid out the steps to ensure that new homeowners are not exploited, as well as detailing governmental services that can help low-income homeowners with major repairs.

Also present were those from local banks that give mortgages.