2019

White Fence, Black Wealth

My Role

Design Strategy, Community Research, Human-Centered

Design

About the Project

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. Through the months of May and June, I hope to continue contextualizing this narrative through resident outreach. I want to eventually be able to work in partnership with homeowners and their counselors to create something which navigates the tensions in this process.

 

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 partners

+ Lawyers in foreclosure prevention

+ Homeownership + Foreclosure

Counselors

+ Data specialist in housing trends

+ Contextual information from

Fellowship with the Mayor’s

Office of Innovation

Community leaders

+ Block leaders

+ Community Association Presidents

+ CDC Presidents

The synthesis, sharing back

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?

The work continues

Through this work, I've had the opportunity to continue to do outreach and shape research about financialization models in lower- to moderate income neighborhoods. 

In July I had the opportunity to share the research with members of the Innovation team at Fannie Mae, and think about the connections to their own research and work with counselors.