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First recipient of the San Diego Black Homebuyers Program settles into his new home

Tyshawn Cook has big plans for his newly purchased two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in Spring Valley.

“I am in the middle of renovating everything so the whole kitchen is going to get moved and destroyed,” said Cook, as he walked around his new living room.

The 23-year-old is confident in his vision for his new condo. He wants a more modern kitchen and he’s working with his dad to remove the carpet and replace it with new flooring.

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Cristina Kim
Tyshawn Cook stands in his new condo in Spring Valley, CA, Nov. 16, 2021.

As an SDSU college student, NAVY reservist, and full-time calibration technician, Cook’s days have long been packed with activities. Now that he’s also a homeowner, he said his daily life has gotten even busier.

“Probably once a week if not once every other week, I am definitely going to Home Depot,” he said. “Now that’s something, honestly, I wasn’t thinking about before.”

Cook was able to buy his condo using the nearly $50,000 grant he received as the first recipient of the San Diego Black Homebuyers Program.

Launched last August with funding and support from the San Diego Foundation Black Community Investment Fund, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher’s office, Union Bank, Urban League and LISC, the program aims to help close the region’s staggering racial homeownership gap.

According to a new data tool released by the Urban Institute, only 26.5% percent of Black San Diegans are homeowners, compared to over 50% of white and Asian San Diegans.

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Cristina Kim
The condominium complex where Tyshawn Cook recently bought his home, Nov. 16, 2021.

The rate of homeownership is even lower for Black people living in East County, such as La Mesa (18.2%) and El Cajon (6.7%).

“The total amount of housing wealth held by white households is $129 billion [in San Diego],” said Michael Neal, the lead researcher of the Urban Institute study. “For black homeowners, it's less than $5 billion.”

In other words, the racial homeownership gap is continuing to widen the racial wealth gap by the billions. But Neal said this gap isn’t just about the number of Black households who own their home, but also about the values of their homes.

“Black homeowners on average, their home value is $610,000, [which is] about a third less than the average value of a white-owned home,” he said.

Neal said historic housing and employment discrimination coupled with longstanding wage gaps and rising housing costs are at the heart of these persisting inequities.

Although he acknowledged there’s no silver bullet solution, he believes programs like the San Diego Black Home Buyers Program provide a good first step, especially for young buyers like Cook.

These homes will help build generational wealth, said Pamela Gray Payton, the San Diego Foundation’s chief impact and partnerships officer, in a written statement to KPBS.

“Speaking from personal experience, I know that these families will build equity in their first homes that will move them into larger homes as their families grow, invest in their children’s college education and be able to gift that wealth in the future,” she said.

In order to be eligible for the program, an applicant must be Black or African American, a current resident of San Diego County, a first-time homebuyer, and a part of a household that earns less than 120% of the area median income.

Selected applicants like Cook then receive housing counseling and must be approved by the program’s current banking partner, Union Bank, before making an offer and purchasing a home.

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Cristina Kim
Tyshawn Cook looks over an old photo album that includes photos of him when he was a baby, Nov. 16, 2021.

The program has already helped seven families in San Diego County, according to Ricardo Flores, the executive director of LISC San Diego, the organization that administers the program’s funds. Now that the program is set up, he wants to see it expand and help more families

“We've created the program, we’ve created the vehicle, we've got mortgages attached to it, so now we just need to get together to provide more,” he said. “And the great thing is that for a million dollars, you can get 25 families homeownership opportunities, which is obviously going to change their lives indefinitely.

Cook is already feeling the benefits of the program. He used the grant money to pay his closing costs, which means he now has the funds to renovate and add equity back into this new condo.

“All I know is that I want to give my children a better childhood,” he said. “Not that mine was bad, but in order to do that, one of the things I never want to do is tell my kids no because of money… never.”

He hopes his condo will jumpstart his ability to build wealth and take care of the generations to come. For now, he’s enjoying his condo’s scenic views of pink sunsets and he’s already planning on having his siblings visit and stay with him.

The San Diego Black Homebuyers Program helped Tyshawn Cook buy his first home. The program provides grants to help with down payments or closing costs. Cook is putting equity back into his new home by investing in renovations, something that's only possible because of the money he saved with the grant. Meanwhile, the state of California has given $2.6 million to UC San Diego to recruit Native American student doctors. Plus, California is on track to close its very last commercial nuclear power plant.