Osborne Strickland has a personal mission to help low-income Minnesotans achieve homeownership
For too many Minnesotans, buying a first home is increasingly difficult. In today’s hot market, supply is short, and prices are rising. For low-income buyers struggling to work jobs, raise families, and pay the rent, scrimping together a downpayment can be overwhelming. Yet, thanks to an array of financial programs and community-based assistance, much-needed resources are available to many first-time buyers. Unfortunately, many renters are not aware they exist. But Osborne Strickland, broker at City of Lakes Community Realty in Minneapolis, is working to change that.
“My goal is to help as many people as possible purchase and stay in their own homes,” Strickland said. Partnering with the City
of Lakes Community Land Trust (CLCLT), a non-profit organization dedicated to expanding and preserving affordable housing in Minneapolis, he connects lower-income Minnesotans with downpayment assistance (DPA), and opportunities for purchasing affordable rehabilitated homes or new construction built by organizations like CLCLT, Habitat for Humanity, Dayton’s Bluff, the Metropolitan Housing Corporation, PRG, and others.
Can DPA programs make a difference? A recent report from the Minnesota Homeownership Center and Minnesota Realtors® finds that with grants of $10,500 or less, nearly 112,000 low-to-moderate income renters could purchase their own homes. And with higher grants up to $50,000, another 100,000 renter households
could join the ranks of homeowners. Though it’s easy to crunch numbers, the human impact of this kind of aid is incalculable.
“Owning a home helps you accumulate and secure wealth that can benefit generations of people,” Strickland explained. “It supports family ad economic stability, and a whole range of psychological and social benefits. As a homeowner, you have a sense of belonging and community. It’s the foundation of the American Dream, yet too many people have been left out of it.”
That’s why Strickland is dedicated to making that dream a reality for more Minnesotans, one transaction at a time.
Recently, he worked with a woman whose life was transformed following the death of a close friend, who was also a mother to two children. Intensely concerned about their welfare, she gained legal custody of the kids and came to live with them in the house their mother was in the process of purchasing. With help from Strickland and CLCLT, she was able to obtain DPA and continue the purchasing process.
“Both of those children are on the Autism spectrum,” Strickland said. “By owning that home, she’ll be able to give them the stability they need to live fuller, happier lives. None of that would be possible without DPA.”
For Strickland, moments like these make all the hard work and long hours worthwhile. In a wide-ranging career that has taken him from restaurant entrepreneur through law school, private legal practice, and several high-profile posts as vice president of different healthcare organizations, he finds his current role the most fulfilling.
“I spent the bulk of my career in healthcare where I was an administrator. I know I helped those organizations and made lasting contributions, but the work didn’t satisfy my personal mission to help people directly and make a difference in their lives,” Strickland said. “Now I have my own business, and I do that every day. It’s challenging work, but it’s satisfying.”
Last year, CLCLT programs helped 42 lower-income households into homes of their own. Of that number, 14 were resales of existing CLCLT properties that are kept in perpetual trust by the organization so that they remain affordable. Additionally, CLCLT rehabilitated two vacant homes, and constructed three new single-family homes in Minneapolis. Since its founding in 2001, the organization facilitated the purchase of 415 perpetually affordable homes and acquired 321 more properties for the trust. More than half of all households served by CLCLT are from communities of color.
Yet for all they have achieved, Strickland acknowledges that his work and that of CLCLT is just the beginning.
“Home Ownership Minnesota, an alliance of non-profit community housing organizations, is looking at ways to increase the production of affordable housing, preserving existing affordable ownership, and preparing successful homeowners. Part of the solution includes ways to expand and develop new DPA programs that target the needs of the populations we serve,” he said. “There are many ideas in play. But these are complex issues that run generations deep. They won’t be solved overnight. We need leadership from across the city, the state, and even the nation. Working together, we can get there.”
For more information on the DPA opportunity in Minnesota, visit mnrealtor.com/dparesearch, and to learn more about CLCLT, visit clclt.org.