July 22, 2024

New mortgage loan program will help more Native people buy homes.

A new mortgage lending program will make it possible for more Native Twin Citians to achieve the dream of home ownership—and to build generational wealth.

The Mni Sota Fund, a Native community development financial institution based in Minneapolis, will launch the program by the middle of 2024. 

The expansion into mortgage lending will allow the Mni Sota Fund to support home buyers “across the finish line,” said Kit Fordham, the fund’s executive director. The nonprofit’s goal is to close 100 mortgage loans by the end of 2024, he said. 

Founded in 2012, the nonprofit seeks to address the needs of Native people who live in the Twin Cities area. It offers help with improving credit scores, moving toward home ownership and entrepreneurship through services that include educational workshops and one-on-one financial counseling. 

“We’re unique in that we are non-tribally affiliated and headquartered in an urban area. So we serve all Native folks,” Fordham said. “We’ve worked with dozens of different members of dozens of different tribal nations.”

“We’ve worked with dozens of different members of dozens of different tribal nations.”

Kit Fordham of the Mni Sota Fund

Two staffers have been hired to implement the program. Kevin Harris, director of lending services for the Mni Sota Fund, will be in charge of developing the mortgage lending program and evaluating loan requests. Jamie Brown will serve as a loan officer. 

Before joining the Mni Sota Fund, Harris worked at TCF Bank and Wells Fargo for nearly three decades. Working for a nonprofit means there is “less red tape,” he said. 

“I’ve always had a passion for home ownership and helping people. But this is different, and it feels special,” Harris said. “I never thought that I would have an opportunity like this, but I have it and I’m taking full advantage of it.”

“I’ve always had a passion for home ownership and helping people. But this is different, and it feels special.”

Kevin Harris of the Mni Sota Fund’s new mortgage loan program

The mortgage lending program will begin with conventional loans, Harris said. In the future, services may expand to include down payment assistance and veteran loans. 

“One of my goals that I’ve set for myself and the organization is to be closing the home ownership gap for the Native community,” Harris said. The program’s primary goal is to support Native people, but others may also apply and receive support.

According to the Minnesota Compass, which tracks local demographics data, the 2017-2021 home ownership rate for Native Americans in the Twin Cities is nearly 40 percent. For the overall Twin Cities population, the rate is 69.1 percent. Black Minnesotans have the lowest rate of home ownership at 28.5 percent. 

Breaking the cycle of poverty

The Mni Sota Fund had already taken a role in helping Minnesotans move toward home ownership. After receiving support from the nonprofit, Rae Spears, 47, was able to buy her first house. Spears attended home ownership-related workshops and met with a financial counselor who helped her plan a budget and improve her credit score. 

The Mni Sota Fund provides financial services to Native American homeowners and entrepreneurs in Minnesota. Credit: Aaron Nesheim | Sahan Journal

She also received a low-interest personal loan from the Mni Sota Fund that allowed her to pay off credit card debt. It took about six months for her to reach an ideal credit score for purchasing a house. 

In February, Spears will move into her new house in Blaine with her grandniece and three sons. She plans to pass the house to her children someday. 

Spears said she would urge others to take advantage of the new program, which will focus specifically on mortgage lending. 

“The big takeaway is the education, the information, the support, and the resources that were given to me, to empower me to reach my goals and learn along the way,” she said. “Everything that they offer is just to help individuals, our family, to improve your way of life, and hopefully to break generational poverty.”

To learn more about the Mni Sota Fund’s personal loan program and updates on the mortgage lending program, check out its website

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