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White Fence, Black Wealth

Initiated research into the impact which foreclosure has not only on homeowners, but the broader community and the counselors who guide homeowners in the process

Design Strategy, Community Research, Human-Centered Design

My role

Credits/ Team
The Project in detail

My Masters capstone focused on the lifecycle of a homeowner. How could we begin to support a continuous, cross-generational narrative within a space, not disrupted by foreclosure? As my research unfolded I found that foreclosure was the biggest drain on generational wealth building. Through my personal research, I wanted to focus on the tension between the conditions which trigger foreclosure and counseling methods which currently exist.

The research

I divided the research into two main phases. From January to March, my focus was on grounding the narrative of foreclosure in Baltimore. I wanted to understand what current efforts exist in the housing space, and how to best leverage what exists to help residents. Throughout May, I continued contextualizing this narrative through resident outreach.

During my first phase, I wanted to find people who interfaced with the foreclosure process rather than focusing on lenders and banks because because I wanted to understand the experiences of the individuals within this broader system.

Observational Data

+ Attended community meetings

+ Attended Homeownership counseling

+ Attended Foreclosure counseling

+ Community walks (Forest Park, Ashburton. Park Heights, West Arlington)

Community leaders

+ Block leaders

+ Community Association Presidents

+ CDC Presidents

Community partners

+ Lawyers in foreclosure prevention

+ Homeownership + Foreclosure


+ Data specialist in housing trends

+ Contextual information from Fellowship with the Mayor’s Office of Innovation

The synthesis

From the research, there were a few key themes which helped qualify the research:

Recognizing capacity which constrains the work of counselors

Insight: Homeownership counselors have a wealth of knowledge, yet are constrained by time and funding which limits programing and prevention outreach.

Reconciling expectation and independence of homeowners

Insight: Homeowners have expectations of what information they would like to receive and what information they need, but homeownership counselors have additional information which homeowner is aren't always ready to receive.

Addressing the emotional toll on counselors

Insight: Homeownership counselors want to empathize with homeowners going through the foreclosure process, but must fight the burn out associated with heavy emotional processing.

Solutions + opportunities

How might we make space for feedback and resource sharing that is outside of the one-

on-one session?

How might we support counselors through the demands of their position as healers and advisors?

How might we make establish mutually beneficial goals for home owners and counselors to give and receive information?

Sharing back, continuing the work

During May 2019, I had the opportunity to speak to Fannie Mae's Social Innovation team to shape their continuing work in the housing system. Our discussion focused on the social systems surrounding residents and how we might leverage their continuing work in the housing system to better favor residents.

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