More than 170 Philadelphia homeowners attended Home Legacy: Preserving Homeownership and Wealth, on Saturday, October 14, 2023. Home Legacy was a unique event aimed at empowering low-to-moderate income homeowners to preserve their homes and intergenerational wealth. The event was organized by Affordable Housing Centers of PA (AHCOPA) with help from Community Legal Services of Philadelphia (CLS), and sponsored by Wells Fargo.
Home Legacy provided homeowners with critical information and resources to protect their most significant asset: their home. Participants engaged with experts on critical topics, including estate planning, tangled titles, the safe use of equity, real estate tax reductions, and accessing affordable home repair programs.
I learned a lot about home repairs, how to get funding for projects, how to get equity loans. Mainly, I have an old house and I needed to know how to get work done.”
In a panel discussion, Rachel Gallegos, Divisional Supervising Attorney at CLS, Register of Wills Tracey Gordon, and Derrick Thomas, Program Manager at AHCOPA examined the importance of estate planning and preventing tangled titles. The panel was moderated and live broadcast by WURD.
The issue of tangled titles – situations in which the deed to a property bears the name of someone other than the apparent owner – has gained attention in recent years. In 2021, the Pew Charitable Trusts published a report identifying over 10,000 homes in Philadelphia with a tangled title, amounting to $1.1 billion dollars of wealth that is inaccessible to the families living in and caring for these homes. Neighborhoods with higher rates of tangled titles tend to be predominantly Black, so addressing the tangled title epidemic is an issue of race equity. Empowering homeowners to write wills significantly reduces the chance that a title will become tangled, and yet only 20% of Black households nationwide have a will.
“When I talk to homeowners,” said Gallegos, “I often remind them that you have worked your entire life to create this family home, this place that family can come to when they fall on hard times, where you’ve raised kids and maybe grandkids… that’s what you’re protecting. Don’t assume that your family will know what to do when you pass, I’m here to tell you they won’t. You have to write a will.”
In the second panel discussion, financial experts educated homeowners on how to safely use the home equity they worked hard to achieve and avoid predatory lending schemes. Panelists included Sandy Mozes, Branch Manager at Wells Fargo, and Jill Roberts, Director of Advocacy at Clarifi, and AHCOPA’s executive director, Kenneth Bigos.
Participant Antonia Bantum echoed the sentiments of many at the event, saying “I had a lot of questions that I needed answered, and I feel most people don’t share this kind of information.”
Another participant agreed, saying, “I learned a lot about home repairs, how to get funding for projects, how to get equity loans. Mainly, I have an old house and I needed to know how to get work done.”
There is a startling racial wealth gap in America, with white households having 10 times greater wealth than Black households, on average. Homeownership is the greatest contributor to wealth creation, and 60 percent of the annual disparity in wealth flows derives from intergenerational transfers, such as inheritance. The aggregate gap in inheritances between Black and white recipients is estimated at some $200 billion.
To help close the racial wealth gap in Philadelphia, AHCOPA and CLS of Philadelphia are working to educate Black and Brown homeowners about the value of their homes and how to protect them. Communities of color, which have often been victims of historical practices of redlining and predatory lending schemes, can protect their wealth through establishing a will and thus a clear title, and by using equity in ways that benefit them now and in the future.
As the financial sponsor of the Home Legacy event and a major funder for AHCOPA and CLS’s Wills programs, Wells Fargo agrees that, “A quality, safe, affordable place to call home is something everyone should have,” said Stephen Briggs, Vice President of Philanthropy and Community Impact, Wells Fargo. “There are many paths to homeownership, and estate planning is a critical component to continue building generational wealth. And as the Bank of Doing, we’re proud to work with Affordable Housing Centers of Pennsylvania, Community Legal Services and others to tackle tangled titles in Philadelphia.”