Kansas City real estate agent Tenesia Brown turned a negative into a positive after a cancer diagnosis five years ago left her considering her legacy. Facing her own mortality, Brown wondered how she’d be remembered by the Black community she loved so much, then decided the most impactful mark she could leave would be to convert 1,000 of its renters into homeowners.
In 2017, Brown, already a real estate veteran in Missouri, formed Key’s Realty Group and moved her suburban-based real estate agency to the east side Kansas City community in which she grew up, according to KCUR. Brown was even more motivated to advocate for homeownership based on her own experience as a child moving constantly with her mother.
Kansas City real estate agent Tenesia Brown is determined to convert 1,000 Black renters in her community into homeowners. (Photo: AdobeStock.com)
“We probably moved about every three to six months and I’ve probably gone to almost every elementary school here in Kansas City,” Brown told KCUR. “It is pretty rough on a kid being the new kid everywhere you go and in every neighborhood.”
Key’s Realty has a predominantly Black, all-female staff. Earlier this year, Brown opened a second office in St. Louis. She said her agency is nearly halfway to its goal.
“Once you’re stable, because you now own a property, it makes life a little easier. It takes stress off of you,” Brown told KCUR. “It does a lot for not just you, but your entire family once you’ve been stabilized. I believe that with the pride in homeownership and being invested in the community or in the block or in the neighborhood, then that kind of helps with stabilizing neighborhoods, which stabilizes cities and brings businesses to those areas. And it’s just like a trickle-down effect.”
Gentrification has impacted Black communities all over the country, and Kansas City is no exception. Brown saw developers encroaching on her old neighborhood, and that also factored into her mission. KCUR cited a recent study showing the Black homeownership gap increased in 2020 despite historically low mortgage rates and a seller’s market that led buyers to pay thousands over asking prices to secure homes. The gap between Black and white homeownership is now almost 30%, more than it was in the 1960s, according to the study.
Greenline Initiative founder Ajia Morris is also working to create more Black homeowners. The Kansas City-based company focuses on renovating rundown properties and helping owners finance using community funds rather than banks. She says that in concert with agents like Brown, changing what qualifies buyers to purchase a home can help more renters become owners.
“We want to take those things out of determining credit worthiness, take those things out of determining what your interest rate will be,” Morris told KCUR. “Because that way, you get a fair opportunity to access homeownership, especially coming from a low-income community. It is slightly offensive to add an additional burden and cost on them for things they can’t control.”
New homeowner Tae Yaeger is just one example of Brown’s impact on the community. The mother of three not only purchased a home through Brown, but she also got her real estate license and now works with her.
“To be able to have that example who leads us, she’s been through it,” Yeager said, “she’s been through the same community and helping to bridge that gap to where, you know, ‘No, you can own that home. You don’t have to rent for the rest of your life. You can leave that land for the next generation.’ I think that representation is very important for all of us, because like I said, what was homeownership to us growing up? Nobody ever taught it to us.”
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