As a renter over the past decade, Sean Tanna grew familiar with the stores and restaurants in north Minneapolis — which is why he decided to plant his family's roots there, he said.

In December, his family officially closed on a three-bedroom house with the help of a $20,000 grant from a program that aims to help Black and Indigenous first-time homebuyers purchase a house in north Minneapolis. Tanna is one of the first recipients of the Homeownership Access Fund, led by the north Minneapolis-based housing nonprofit Urban Homeworks.

Through years of divestment in north Minneapolis and discriminatory housing practices, families of color have been shut out from securing wealth to pass onto future generations, said Urban Homeworks Executive Director AsaleSol Young.

Young hopes the program will help former north Minneapolis residents return to their old neighborhoods, and encourage current residents to stay and invest in the community as homeowners.

"Making the decision to invest in a community like North, by purchasing a home in North, is a long-term commitment," Young said, adding that homeowners typically have a greater interest and stake to get involved in the community, including local politics and schools, because of their investment in a house.

Grant recipients receive pre-purchase training and a coach to help them navigate financial challenges, such as a low credit score. They can also attend seminars after they purchase a house, and they can continue working with a coach on long-term goals such as paying for maintenance and weatherization.

"If we're going to help a family get in a position to build wealth, there is no wealth-building if they lose their home," said David McGee, executive director of Build Wealth, a nonprofit that works to help families navigate the home-buying process.

Tanna has been trying, on and off, to buy a home since 2020. He knew he wanted to leave behind rent increases and his landlord's apathetic responses to repair requests, but he hesitated. "I was comfortable where I was at," he said.

His loan officer kept calling to encourage him to buy a house, and he began to focus more seriously on his home search last year. Tanna said he wanted to provide his sons, partner and aging father with a stable place to call home.

"You gotta do it for yourself, but you make sure they're good as well, by making payments on time and putting food in the refrigerator and just steady working," he said.

Only two recipients have been awarded the $20,000 down payment grant, including Tanna. The grant is a check that the buyer brings with them to the closing of their house. The plan is to issue eight more grants to recipients this year, according to Katie Herrick, Urban Homeworks communications manager.

With the support of donors and foundations, a future goal is to expand the funding opportunity to south Minneapolis, Young said.

Home buyers who are interested in applying for a grant are encouraged to talk with their loan officer about learning more through Urban Homeworks' website.

A few months after moving into the house, Tanna's two sons are making "more noise than anything." His partner is thinking of painting the exterior of the house from baby blue to white.

"Don't wait at all," said Tanna, offering advice to other first-time home buyers. "Don't pay no one else's mortgage. You gotta own your own stuff."

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This story comes to you from Sahan Journal, a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to covering Minnesota's immigrants and communities of color. Sign up for a free newsletter to receive Sahan's stories in your inbox.