Liz and Josh Riley never imagined owning their first home in La Mesa. In fact, when they first envisioned owning property, they thought about Atlanta, Ga.
“We started thinking long-term: how do we buy here [in San Diego]?” Liz recalled. “I have a lot of friends and coworkers in Atlanta, so we thought ‘let’s buy our first home in Atlanta, save for a deposit, and two to three years later we can take that equity and buy here in San Diego’.”
That interest led to a Texas-based Instagram influencer who posted about Black wealth and, eventually, the San Diego Black Homebuyers Program. Intrigued, Liz looked into the local program and was pleasantly surprised that she and Josh qualified.
When they describe their path to homeownership, the Rileys are quick to call it ‘a miracle.’
“It still feels surreal,” Liz said. “I’m speechless; seriously, it was honestly nothing short of a miracle. Even when I tell people about it now, people don’t believe me.”
“The Lord brought this program in front of us,” Josh noted. “The coolest thing was to experience God’s hand in everything. We did our part in signing papers and getting money where it needed to go, but [the fast process] was something that was so outside of us and it was the Lord’s doing through and through.”
‘Forget the Honeymoon Phase’
Married just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the newlyweds quickly found themselves around each other at all hours of the day.
“We lived in our 900-square-foot apartment for the first year of [being married],” Liz joked. “We were around each other 25/8 — beyond 24/7 — just all day, every day.”
Josh added, “Forget the honeymoon phase.”
Thankfully, their relationship grew stronger for it, and the couple started thinking about their future.
When they first thought about buying property, it was fall 2020. They started saving in earnest for a future down payment, working “side hustles,” or part-time work like delivering food and running errands, in addition to their full-time jobs, and saving their tax refund and pandemic relief funds.
Then, Josh was laid off in March 2021. While they had amassed $12,000 in savings in three months, they now had to use it to sustain themselves as they figured out their next steps. Later that year, Josh decided to go back to school and work part-time.
In August, they heard about the San Diego Black Homebuyers Program and found they qualified.
They quickly went through the process with Urban League of San Diego County and soon found themselves connected with a realtor. Ultimately, they found a three-bedroom condo just blocks away from their then-rented home.
“I looked into [the program] on a Tuesday and by the end of that day I was already connected with the lender,” Liz detailed. “The next day I was preapproved. Two days later we met our realtor; that weekend we put in an offer on a home and didn’t get it. One week later we found this home and put in an offer. We did an 18-day escrow and then moved in.”
Heavily involved in their church community, Josh and Liz moved residences quickly with the help of dozens of friends.
“We had 30 people show up to help us move,” Liz shared. “We bought so much pizza! We were at Little Caesar’s buying eight pizzas and even they were like ‘that’s a lot of pizza!’”
Now, the Rileys are looking forward to building a home for their family.
They acknowledge that, thanks to donors, the grant assistance they received is helping them build generational wealth for their new baby, who is expected to join them in a few months in their spare third bedroom that is being converted to a nursery.
“I’m so grateful for donors’ generosity and for their willingness to give to programs like this because we would not have been able to have this legacy within our family that we now get to have,” Liz shared. “The Lord has used something as little as their finances to change the course of not just our lives, but also the lives of our future children and grandchildren because we get to own in San Diego.”
About the Black Homebuyers Program
The goal of the Black Homebuyers Program is to improve the racial wealth gap in San Diego by investing in generational wealth-building opportunities through Black homeownership. The program creates wealth-building and serves as a stabilizing force for family, community, health and self.
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 Homebuyers Program was founded and seed-funded by an initial pledge of $1 million by The San Diego Foundation Black Community Investment Fund, along with administrative funding from the County of San Diego, through the office of Board of Supervisors Chair, Nathan Fletcher.
In the last year, the program was buoyed by several funders, including $250,000 from San Diego Gas & Electric, $160,000 from the BQuest Foundation, $75,000 from Wells Fargo and $25,000 from Cox Communication.
In total, the Black Homebuyers Program will be able to assist 35 families by July 2022. Several families are currently in the pipeline, which is managed by Urban League of San Diego County.
The Black Community Investment Fund prioritizes and invests in community-led, innovative efforts, such as the Black Homebuyers Program, 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.