How Black Lives Matter impacted the housing industry

Today’s HousingWire Daily features the fifth episode of Honest Conversations, a miniseries on minority homeownership hosted by HousingWire Digital Media Manager Alcynna Lloyd. In this episode, Lloyd interviews Montell Watson, the director of corporate strategy at Movement Mortgage, about the impact Black Lives Matter had on the housing industry.

Here is a small preview of the interview, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity:

Alcynna Lloyd: Montell, as minority homeownership became a prominent topic of discussion for the housing industry in 2020, Movement Mortgage was one of the many companies to lead the discussion. In fact, the company published a podcast interview that discussed the topic and Black Lives Matter in detail. Can you talk a bit about the episode and how you felt recording it?

Montell Watson: Absolutely. Homeownership for Black Americans is a very important topic for us at Movement Mortgage. We feel that anytime any group is marginalized, we want to love on them, and find a way to help them. So, we’ve done several interviews on this topic. One of those interviews featured Casey Crawford, Adam Constantine, our team, and me. At the time, we just wanted to bring to light where the homeownership rate was and now, today, we want to make sure financial institutions step out to ensure there’s equity across the board for all people, as it’s important that everyone has opportunities to own homes…. The way I feel about it is if we can bring unconscious biases to light and make them conscious, it can open people’s eyes to things they never realized.

Honest Conversations is a miniseries that examines the state of minority homeownership and the factors that have contributed to inequality within American housing. Each Wednesday, tune into HousingWire Daily as we aim to provide listeners with a greater perspective on how race, housing, and wealth intersect and what experts are doing to close the gap. Sponsored by Caliber Home Loans and hosted and produced by Alcynna Lloyd.

Below is the transcription of the interview. These transcriptions, powered by Speechpad, have been lightly edited and may contain small errors from reproduction:

Victoria Wickham: HousingWire Daily examines the most compelling mortgage, real estate, and FinTech articles reported from the HousingWire newsroom. Each afternoon, the HW Digital team provides our listeners with a deeper look into the stories that are helping move markets forward, hosted and produced by Alcynna Lloyd and Victoria Wickham.  

And now, here’s our host.  

Victoria Wickham: Pulled from the hottest topics coming across our news desk, I’m Victoria Wickham, and this is HousingWire Daily. Today’s episode features the fifth installment of Honest Conversations. In this episode, Digital Media Manager, Alcynna Lloyd interviews Montel Watson, the director of corporate strategy at Movement Mortgage about the impact Black Lives Matter had on the U.S. housing market.  

But before we listen, here’s a brief word from our sponsor.  

Brena Nath: Caliber Home Loans is committed to helping customers at all stages of homeownership. Whether you’re the first in your family to buy a home or just a first-time homebuyer, our focus is on getting you into the home of your dreams and helping you stay there. Contact Caliber Home Loans if you’d like to learn more.  

Alcynna Lloyd: I’m your host, Alcynna Lloyd and this is <i>Honest Conversations. “Honest Conversations” is a show that provides listeners with a greater perspective on how race, housing, and wealth intersect and what experts are doing to close the gap. Today I’m joined with Montel Watson, the director of corporate strategy at Movement Mortgage.  

Montel Watson: Hey, what’s up, Alcynna, thanks for having me again.  

Alcynna Lloyd: Of course, we’re so happy to have you on the show. Montel, as you know, 2020 was a significant year for Americans as the coronavirus pandemic, social and political unrest, and economic distress transformed the American landscape. While all of these factors isolated seemed unrelated, they all intertwined during a time when Americans were struggling socially and financially. In March of 2020, when both the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matters protests began to dominate news headlines nationwide, the housing industry began to have serious conversations about how race and wealth impacted homeownership.  

Montel, let’s go back to March 2020. What were you feeling during this time?  

Montel Watson: Oh, man, that’s a tough question, right? So, March 2020, you know, when everything was starting to unpack and happen, it was an emotional time. It was a very emotional time. You know, you have the pandemic hitting and just being unsure of, kind of, what’s next, right? Then you have the social unrest, which, you know, me being a black man in America, man, that brought back a lot of emotions.  

And, you know, having to relive a lot of my past experiences and emotions, it was difficult to deal with. But in the industry, and being a sales leader in the industry, I felt that it was very important for me to stand up and lead our team through it because it was a lot going on with, you know you have the social unrest like you mentioned, and then you have the pandemic and people losing their life and losing loved ones.  

I have team members on my team that have been impacted by the pandemic, right, both from family members being sick as well as financially they having family members, right, being impacted. So it was a time that was, you know, a lot of emotions were, kind of, in the air.  

Alcynna Lloyd: And I agree. It was a very difficult time as almost everyone has since been impacted by the pandemic. During that time, while all this was happening, Black Lives Matter became a national hot topic. What were some of the conversations you were having with your colleagues?  

Montel Watson: I think that it started to raise a lot of great conversations and individuals wanting to have the conversation. I think that was probably one of the more important things is being open to having a conversation and listen, and just understanding that people of color sometimes have a different experience in America.  

And having that conversation, we even had our black loan officers, we had an internal LO, we call them our LO lives, and we had our black loan officers just talk through the experience that they have where sometimes they deal with unconscious biases that other people may not be dealing with.  

One loan officer gave a great example of where she had different business cards, right, where she would leave in offices one where it had her picture, and one that did not for the specific reason of the color of her skin, right? So it was a time where I was having a lot of good, honest conversations where a lot of people were open to listening.  

And you know how it is, is, like, starting to have the conversation is an important piece, right, so… There’s a lot of good open and honest conversations being had during that time.  

Alcynna Lloyd: Yes. And as the protests were growing, it was around this time data began to show that the virus was impacting communities of color at a greater rate probing questions on America’s health equity. In fact, data from APM Research Lab now shows 1 in 735 black Americans has died from the virus compared to 1 in 1,030 white Americans, and 1 in 1,670 Asian Americans.  

This data not only highlights inequities relating to health care, but it also shines a light on how the virus could worsen the economic prospects for black Americans. Notably, according to data from ProPublica, the economic and health crisis introduced by the pandemic has struck black Americans especially hard ranging from a predominance among workers in essential high-risk fields to their larger share of deaths to significant job losses.  

Montel, it’s safe to say these factors could impact the homeownership rate for black Americans. Can you explain to our listeners what the rate looks like currently, and what’s at future risk?  

Montel Watson: Absolutely. So I do think the rate in the first quarter of, you know, or first or second quarter of 2020, it had a little bit of a bump, right? But the issue with that, that’s the macroeconomics of rates being in a fantastic place.  

The other side of that is that you have a lot of frontline essential workers that are people of color, right, that are, like you had mentioned, the stats of the 1 in 735 black Americans that died from the virus, so you have a larger amount of people of color that are frontline. And, you know, a lot of individuals were also losing their jobs during this period.  

And if you look at job data, it is also disproportionately for black people as well, right? So, not having a job hurts the opportunity and is a huge factor impacting the homeownership rate of people of color and black people, right?  

It’s interesting thing that you see the tick up of black homeownership but also with… I know some data is lagging right now, but it’d be interesting to see what happens to take a look at that data now after people are losing their jobs due to the pandemic, and then also the absolute atrocities of people losing their lives as well. So, it’s definitely a tough and sad time for a lot of individuals, but I do know that many lenders, and hopefully more lenders start to come out to say, “How can we curb these effects and ensure that we do our part to balance out homeownership for black people in America?”  

Alcynna Lloyd: Right, Montel. As minority homeownership became a prominent topic of discussion for the housing industry in 2020, Movement Mortgage was one of the many companies to lead the discussion. In fact, the company published a podcast interview to discuss the topic in detail. Can you talk to us a bit about that episode and how you felt recording it?  

Montel Watson: Absolutely. So, I mean, homeownership for black Americans is a very, very important topic for us at movement. You know, we feel that anytime any group is marginalized, we want to love on them. We want to find a way to help them.  

And so, that interview, you know, I think we’ve done several interviews on this topic. We had an interview with Casey, and myself, and Adam on our team because at the time, that was actually put out a few years beforehand. And during that one, we just wanted to bring it to light that, you know, with the rate being where it is right now today, we have to do something.  

Us as financial institutions have to step out to ensure that there’s equity across the board for all people, right? It’s important that all people have opportunities to own homes in today’s environment, you know, ensure that we bring awareness to it to help more people of color get into homes. We’ve had several conversations this year around it, obviously, with tensions being where it is today.  

We launched a series called, I think you’re referring to the podcast, our series. It’s our Untriggered, which had the conversation around unconscious biases that we all walk around with today.  

And the way I feel about that is that if we can bring unconscious biases to light and make them conscious, you can open people’s eyes. It can open people’s eyes to things that they may be walking around with that they never realized that they had. Both black, white, Asian, it doesn’t matter, right, Hispanic. We all walk around with different biases that we have held since we were kids, quite frankly, and not realize it.  

And so we want to continue to have honest conversations, and we want to help get more people into homes. Specifically right now today with black homeownership being at the rate that it is and lagging behind, we want to help more black people get into homes.  

Alcynna Lloyd: Well, I’m glad Movement Mortgage’s taking up that and championing that cause. Now, this is my favorite part of the interview as I like to ask each Honest Conversation guest the same two questions. What is your biggest area of concern for minority homeownership, and what can the industry do today to address the homeownership gap?  

Montel Watson: Yeah, I think I have a big passion around bringing awareness to how important it is and how it can change lives, right? You know, me owning my first home, there was a stigma in my mind that homeownership wasn’t for me, that I couldn’t own a home.  

I mean, I think that lenders, we need to do a better job to voice the opportunity of homeownership to all markets and all people of color, black, Hispanic, everything, to help people understand that it is possible. And then on the back end of that, ensure that we do everything, you know, within the guidelines to help those individuals get into homes.  

You know, I think that there is a affordability issue in America today in which that is going to be something hard. It’s going to be hard to solve, right? And just because it’s hard doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t attack it, and take a long-term approach to say, “How do we right some of the past wrongs that we have created in America today?” You know, black people in America today are lagging behind from a homeownership perspective for a reason.  

If I was trying to get home decades ago, I wouldn’t be able to, right? So think that having a focus, in a strategic, long-term focus with the different organizations top to bottom, it can’t just be the lenders, it has to be every single part of the supply chain, to raise their hand and say, “What can we do to help improve the homeownership gap for black people in America, Hispanic people in America, and etc.?”  

Right? So, I think it is a consolidated effort from top to bottom of the supply chain.  

Alcynna Lloyd: Montel, thank you for joining us today. As always, we loved having you as a guest.  

Montel Watson: Thank you for having me. Always a pleasure, Alcynna.  

Alcynna Lloyd: Listeners, join us next week for some more Honest Conversations.  

Victoria Wickham: Now more than ever, the housing industry is looking to its leaders for answers. That’s why each week, the Housing News podcast invites a new mortgage, FinTech, or real estate executive to the show to provide its listeners with more perspective on the announcements and news stories crossing HousingWire’s news desk.  

Hosted by Sarah Wheeler and produced by Alcynna Lloyd, the Housing News podcast is now available on iTunes, Spotify, Apple, Google Podcasts, and more.  

Alcynna Lloyd: That’s a wrap for today’s episode of HousingWire Daily. Remember to subscribe, rate, and review on Apple Podcast, and join us again tomorrow.  

Housing News

Hosted by HousingWire Editors, the HW Weekly Newscast is a conversational look at the most important stories coming across HousingWire's news desk.

3d rendering of a row of luxury townhouses along a street

Log In

Forgot Password?

Don't have an account? Please