Kudos: Why education comes before mortgages

Investing in the future generation to grow homeownership

HW+ kudos spotlights the companies in the industry that are using their platform to empower and transform their local communities.

The American dream of homeownership comes to a screeching halt if the journey there is met with apathetic support.  

Recalling his own path to spearheading this dream for many Americans, Movement Mortgage CEO Casey Crawford recalls growing up outside of Washington, D.C. in the early 90s when the city was infamously dubbed the “murder capital of the country” due to its high crime rate. 

His dad had a hardware store in one of the poorest parts of Washington D.C., and when he went to work with his dad, Crawford would also hang out with his friends who lived by the store. 

“I saw the unbelievable challenges of growing up as a poor youth in an urban context,” he said. “Even going into college, I really had a tough time imagining how some of my friends would have made it out of that environment.” 

Now, as the CEO of one of the nation’s top 10 retail lenders, Crawford has used his story and experience growing up not only to start Movement Mortgage, but also to create the Movement Foundation, which is funded through the mortgage company’s profits. The foundation is designed to partner with others to reinvest in communities, and it was from this mission that Charlotte, N.C.-based Movement School was started. 

There are countless statistics around the impact that education has on a child’s future. According to ChildFund International, one in six Americans live at or below the poverty level, and 30% of children raised in poverty do not finish high school. Going a step further, ChildFund stated that people who do not earn a high school diploma by age 20 are seven times more likely to be persistently poor between ages 25 and 30. 

The dream of homeownership becomes a distant thought if the basic foundation of education and health aren’t there as a child is growing up. 

“One of the great gifts we have as mortgage companies is that we’re profitable, and so we take that powerful resource of profit and pour it back in to love some of the most vulnerable children in our country,” Crawford said. 

As Crawford noted, the mortgage industry does present a lot of opportunities for lenders. It’s more than a trillion-dollar industry. The annual originations forecast from the Mortgage Bankers Association predicted that total mortgage originations would reach around $1.89 trillion in 2020. 

Despite the tight competition to secure a piece of that trillion-dollar pie, many lenders in the space are using their position to make an impact in their community and give back. 

Crawford added that the challenges children face are too big to be solved by any one institution or any one group. “But with teamwork, where you’re really working together with state and federal governments, hospital systems, local school boards, housing authorities and the communities that you’re trying to serve, then you can actually move the needle in significant ways,” he said. 

At the end of January, Movement Mortgage announced it experienced a record-breaking year of business growth in 2018, unveiling a $22 million investment to support the expansion of Movement School. The first Movement School campus opened in West Charlotte in 2017, with the second campus in East Charlotte slated to open this year. Beyond these first two campuses, Movement School is also actively working to open two additional campuses in the Charlotte metro area. Movement School is a network of public, tuition-free charter schools serving students and families in North Carolina. Movement School is just the first building block in helping foster a momentum toward change in these communities. 

As important as education is, a child’s health is just as important, with ChildFund stating that children who grow up poor in the U.S. are more likely to be in poor health. Movement School is working to change the entire trajectory for students living in poverty by using the school to create community hubs for change. 

“The school building itself can actually act as a beachhead for different organizations who are meeting some of the different needs that the urban poor face,” Crawford said. “There are a lot of good folks who are all doing great work in a lot of disparate areas of our city, but when you think about bringing them together under one roof, I think there’s real power and synergy in doing that.” 

“When you start taking care of housing, education, healthcare and a lot of these big persistent problems that the urban poor face, you’re giving people a context to thrive,” he said. “Kids are unbelievably gifted and unbelievably capable. We just need to give them a context and environment where they can use all those gifts to their fullest to break some of these generational cycles and issues of poverty.”

Every organization has the power to ignite great change, as Crawford stated, they just need to figure out what that change looks like for them. Crawford spotlighted Amazon as an example of leading change. In an article by Thomas Franck in CNBC, he shared how more than 340 Amazon employees risked termination earlier this year after signing a Medium post published by advocacy group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice. While the group still advocates for more change from Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, their efforts did lead to the creation of a new Earth Fund that Bezos pledged $10 billion to in order to start. The fund will issue grants to combat the effects of climate change.

Whether it’s pouring back into schools, the environment or something else, in the words of Crawford, “Our purpose has to be greater than profit.”

And Movement isnt’ the only lender giving back to schools. 

Guild Mortgage, which is based in San Diego, is one of those lenders helping drive change in schools, recently announcing it donated $110,000 each to the Monarch School and Urban Corps of San Diego County. The Monarch School serves students in San Diego and has grown to a K-12 school dedicated to educating homeless youth, while the Urban Corps of San Diego County provides a work-learning program that allows youth to finish high school while earning a paycheck. They also donated $110,000 to Home Start, which provides services to women and children living in poverty.

“We have been fortunate to have key sponsors and people throughout the community join us in supporting the important work being done by the Monarch School, Urban Corps of San Diego County and Home Start,” said Mary Ann McGarry, CEO of Guild Mortgage. The lender’s annual charity golf tournament and dinner social has gained the support of leading financial institutions like BNY Mellon, Texas Capital Bank and JPMorgan Chase.  

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