This post was originally published on St. Louis American

By Alvin A. Reid

When Marcia Fudge was confirmed as Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary last spring, one of her first promises was to increase African American home ownership throughout the United States.

Her goal carries the name “3 by 30”, with the aim of increasing Black homeownership by 3 million by the year 2030.

Fudge has a new St. Louis ally in Tenesia Looney-Brown, who recently celebrated the opening of Mission Keys Realty Group.

“There are so many barriers that are preventing African Americans from becoming homeowners,” Looney-Brown said.

“I want them to know that the obstacles are just barriers, not barricades, and Keys Realty Group STL is here to help the continued efforts of many others by ensuring they receive the resources and education from passionate and dedicated realtors.”

Like Fudge, Looney-Brown has set a challenge to increase Black home ownership.

“We want to create 100 new African-American homeowners in 12 months,” Looney-Brown said as the business officially opened on Dr. Martin Luther King Weekend.

“Fulfilling an unfulfilled mission for fair housing for all is the basis of Keys Realty Group Inc.”

The Kansas City-based real estate brokerage was established in 2017 and has helped create over 400 new African American and minority homeowners in that region.

Tenesia Brown, CEO at Key’s Realty Group Inc. cuts the ribbon on her new St. Louis offices. Photo by Wiley Price/St. Louis American.

Looney-Brown said the company’s philosophy is based on the works of Dr. King and his belief in “equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed, and fair and equal housing.”

In a Jan. 26, 2022, “What’s Up Kansas City?” YouTube interview, Looney-Brown said traveling to St. Louis to visit relatives and her grandson led to her opening an office here.

“I was seeing all these beautiful brick homes,” she said.

Wary of staying in hotels, she bought a house and began renovating it.

“People came by to see what I was doing. I would ask them, ‘do you pay rent?’ If you pay rent, you can afford a house,” she said.

“People in St. Louis are no different than people in Kansas City. There are a lot of renters. It is important that we are a true community realtor.

“Not everyone is ready to buy a house for different reasons. We do a lot of education. We help people with understanding down payments, improving credit. We help people get there.”

Looney-Brown added S. Louis’ urban core, like Kansas City, needs more Black homeowners. She added that her agents “share my vision, share my passion,” to make home ownership a reality.

Looney-Brown’s words are like Fudge’s on her quest.

“We’re going to do everything we possibly can to make sure that every single person has an opportunity to build wealth for their families and we’re going to do it in a fair way,” Fudge said when announcing her Black home ownership initiative.

“We have never fully embraced the Fair Housing Act in this country; today we’re doing that.”

Fudge said banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions denied credit to African Americans through unfair lending practices.

“Those days are done in this HUD,” she said.

The rate of Black homeownership was just 44.1% in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The good news is that this is an improvement from the third quarter of 2019, when the rate was just 40.6%. 

Fudge’s plan includes homeownership counseling, a “substantial, sustainable and targeted” down payment assistance program and increasing housing production through land use reforms and economic intervention in distressed communities.