Kevan and Ritha Rowe’s journey to buying their own home was both long and very fast. Shortly after marrying in 2003, the Rowes thought about buying a home, but it was the height of the housing bubble that eventually burst and led to the Great Recession. In the time since, they started a family and pursued their personal finance goals.
After building their credit and savings up, the Rowes and their four younger children, now ages 8, 11, 13 and 17, were in a place to once again pursue their dream. That’s when Ritha saw the news about the Black Homebuyers Program on television.
“It’s funny because everyone makes fun of me because I like watching the news at mid-day and at night just to see what’s going on,” Ritha recounted. “I was watching the news and I saw [the Black Homebuyers Program] and I was like ‘we could do that.’”
From there, she reached out to Urban League of San Diego County to apply for the Black Homebuyers Program. Since her family had already gotten their finances in order and reduced their debt-to-income ratio, there were only a few steps left to complete the process, such as submitting bank statements and attending the Urban League’s homebuyer expo in August.
“It was just at the right time,” Ritha noted. “There’s that saying, ‘it’s not luck – it was preparation meeting opportunity.’ And that is what it really was in this case.”
And it truly was a family project — her 13-year-old son kept her motivated throughout, learning about the home-buying process and viewing potential homes alongside his parents.
“His little voice is like ‘are we going to make an offer on a house today?’” Ritha shared. “He really kept me going. He went with us to the seminar and sat through the whole process; he went with us to look at different properties and he knows what he likes.”
While she acknowledges her family’s diligence during the process, she’s still amazed that it only took six weeks from meeting her realtor to buying a new three-bedroom townhouse in El Cajon. While the family is taking their time moving into their new home — their rent is paid through October and they move items to their new home every day — Ritha is most excited for the stability that homeownership will bring.
“For us, it’s about stability,” she acknowledged. “A sense of belonging and you grow where you’re planted. When you have your own home, you’re planted there. We’re an amazing family. When you have us in your community, it’s going to grow; it’s going to be better.”
Ritha noted that having help with the down payment allowed the family to put in the flooring they wanted and buy new mattresses without going into debt to do so.
“It’s life-changing,” she emphasized, expressing her gratitude to The San Diego Foundation for their grant, and all those involved in the Black Homebuyers Program.
About the Program
The goal of the Black Homebuyer Program is to improve the racial wealth gap in San Diego by investing in generational wealth-building opportunities through Black homeownership. Nationwide, the homeownership gap between Black families and white families has continued to grow in recent years. Currently in the U.S., only 42% of Black families own their homes, while 72% of white families own their homes. In San Diego, fewer than 30% of Black families own homes compared to 61% of white families.
The Black Homebuyer Program was founded and seed-funded by an initial pledge of $1 million by The San Diego Foundation’s Black Community Investment Fund, along with administrative funding from the County of San Diego, through the office of Board of Supervisors Chair, Nathan Fletcher. The program’s goal is to further wealth-building and to serve as a stabilizing force for family, community, health and self.
In September, the program was buoyed by a $160,000 grant from the BQuest Foundation, which will help provide grants for another four homebuyers. In total, the Black Homebuyer Program will be able to assist 35 families this fiscal year. Several families are currently in the pipeline, which is managed by Urban League of San Diego County.
About the Black Community Investment Fund
The Black Community Investment Fund prioritizes and invests in community-led, innovative efforts that increase racial equity and generational wealth for Black San Diegans. The fund was co-founded by the Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce and The San Diego Foundation, and focuses on four key pillars: education, employment, entrepreneurship and housing. Learn more about the Black Community Investment Fund.