Prepared Remarks of MBA 2021 Chairman Susan Stewart at the Spring Conference & Expo 2021: Independent Mortgage Banks, Secondary Markets, Servicing and Technology

CONTACT
Rob Van Raaphorst
rvanraaphorst@mba.org
(202) 557-2799

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 20, 2021) - Susan Stewart, MBA 2021 Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at SWBC Mortgage Corporation, delivered the following remarks here today at MBA's Spring Conference & Expo 2021: Independent Mortgage Banks, Secondary Markets, Servicing and Technology.

 

Good morning! As Rob mentioned, my name is Susan Stewart. It's my honor to serve as MBA chair. And today, it's my privilege to welcome you to our first-ever virtual Spring Conference and Expo.  

This combination of spring conferences is designed to accommodate today's virtual world and bring you the same quality content and peer interaction opportunities you expect from MBA events. Like many of you I typically spend the spring traveling between MBA's big events, from Secondary to Servicing to Technology to IMBs. But this year, we've rolled all four events into one to save you time.  

While I wish we could be together in person, I'm glad you're here virtually. And I look forward to the day, coming very soon, when we can meet in person - and move past the pandemic.  

That's what I'm going to talk about today - moving forward.  

We all know it's been a tough year. You've faced some major hurdles, and with MBA's help, you've overcome them. Without your hard work, many in our country would be in a much worse spot right now. America is moving into the future with a stronger foundation than anyone thought possible this time last year... thanks to you.  

In 2020, you proved again that our industry is a heavy hitter. We can take on the biggest problems and find solutions. Now, as the pandemic winds down, it's time to start asking ourselves: What challenge will we tackle next?  

For me, the answer is simple. It's the issue I chose as my MBA focus area for the year - a crisis the pandemic has made even worse. I'm talking, of course, about minority homeownership.  

When I chose this topic, I broke with tradition. Previous chairs typically chose three focus areas, not one. But these aren't normal times, and this isn't a normal cause. For the mortgage industry, I believe minority homeownership is the issue of our time.  

Today, I'll cover why this topic matters so much. I'll tell you what we've done. Finally, I'll let you know what we're doing next... and how you can get involved.  

The past year has shined a spotlight on systemic problems in America. I believe that tackling this issue is the single best way for our industry to help solve those problems. Minority homeownership is essential to our progress as a society. The more we do on this front, the more we'll build up America.  

One thing's for sure: We've got a lot of work to do.  

Nationally, the homeownership rate is around 65%. But Black homeownership rates are only 44%, which is near a 50-year low. For Hispanics, the homeownership rate isn't much better, at 49%, and for Asians, it's 59%. The situation is getting worse with changing demographics.  

Behind these numbers are millions of families who are missing out on the American Dream. They deserve better - and we can help them do better. It's not just an opportunity for us, it's an obligation.

 

The MBA's focus on minority homeownership started before I became chair, in 2019. Over the past two years, we've made good progress. We've set the stage for even more.  

A key part of our work is MBA's Affordable Housing team. It's led by Steve O'Connor, who's doing a great job. We've also created two advisory councils, on affordable homeownership and affordable rental housing. Both councils unite voices from across the industry to foster progress.  I want to thank Anthony Weekly and David Battany for co-chairing the Affordable Homeownership Advisory Council and Christine Chandler and Tony Love for co-chairing the Affordable Rental Housing Advisory Council.  

We've been hard at work during the pandemic. One important thing we've done is help people learn about their options in the face of forbearance and other difficulties. Minority families have been especially hard-hit, so we've made an extra effort to help them afford their mortgage and rent payments. We're fighting to stop people from falling behind in the short-run, so that in the long-run, we can help them get ahead.  

Most recently, the MBA was instrumental in getting financial assistance from Congress. In the recent stimulus bill, the American Rescue Plan, we worked with a broad coalition of industry, consumer, civil rights, and affordable housing advocates to help secure $40 billion in rental and mortgage assistance. This is real money, helping real people, making a real difference in minority communities in particular.  

But we haven't just reacted to the pandemic. We've proactively built the infrastructure to make progress on this issue for years to come.  

One of MBA's most exciting projects is a place-based minority homeownership program called "Convergence."  

It brings together stakeholders from across the industry and communities to find real solutions to housing problems. The pilot project started just over a year ago in Memphis, Tennessee. It's going well. We've already held a virtual career fair and a virtual homebuyer fair, and the project is gaining speed with every day.  

Now we're preparing to bring Convergence to Columbus, Ohio. We're looking to publicly launch that initiative in July, and we're already working closely with key partners on the ground. I envision a day when the Convergence model is available in communities across the country, helping close racial homeownership gaps on a national scale. With your support, we can make that vision a reality.  

We have plenty of other timely projects in the works. MBA recently launched a six-part webinar series on the "physics of affordable housing." Nearly 300 industry leaders joined the first event in January, which focused on closing the racial wealth gap through homeownership. The second webinar in March focused on solutions to the lack of affordable housing supply, and our third session in May will be about strategies for helping more women become homeowners. Look for a new webinar topic every other month as the series moves forward.

One of our most important efforts is MBA's Minority Homeownership Joint Taskforce. We set this up shortly after I became MBA chair, with a mandate to help solve the root causes of the problem, not just treat the symptoms. The task force includes members from RESBOG and our Affordable Homeownership Advisory Council. For the past four months, they've been hard at work drafting a comprehensive report with actionable policy recommendations.

These recommendations will provide the basis for an MBA policy and advocacy campaign on minority homeownership. We're calling it "Building Minority Wealth Through Homeownership." It's focused on two main areas.  

The first is reducing barriers to minority first-time homeownership and preserving wealth.  The second is addressing the trust gap and supporting financial education for homebuyers and homeowners. Both issues are crucial to strengthening minority homeownership, and in both areas, we'll offer concrete policy ideas.  

I can't tell you how excited I am for these recommendations. It will be a huge part of MBA's minority homeownership game plan. We'll take it to the White House. We'll take it to Congress. We'll take it to the alphabet soup of federal agencies. And we'll take it to state capitols. At every level, we'll talk to the leaders who can turn these recommendations into the law of the land. And not only will we play the long game, we will fight to win.  

As we do, MBA will continue to partner with other players across the industry and the country. Our combined voices carry much further.  

A great example is our work on the National Homeownership Conference's "Black Homeownership Collaborative." This effort brings together groups from across the country, including NAREB, NAR, the Urban Institute, the NAACP, the National Urban League, and many others.  

We've played a leading role as part of the Steering Committee. With our partners, we've helped craft the Collaborative's 7-point plan to boost Black homeownership. This project complements our own task force and strengthens our ability to shape policy at the highest levels. And we'll keep building partnerships to make the biggest mark on minority homeownership.  

There's much more I could say on this topic. I'll dive even deeper this afternoon during my Q&A with Dr. Andre Perry, an expert on inequality in housing. I hope you'll tune in.  

If I had to sum up everything I've said, it's this: MBA is making great progress on minority homeownership.  

We're building the infrastructure to make a difference for decades to come. We're talking with the most important policymakers, including in the new administration and Congress. There's real momentum right now, and we're prepared to make the most of it.  

But we also know this will take time. It took decades to create the crisis we're in. It will take many years to fix everything that's broken.

  We're here for the long haul. When I step aside later this year, MBA's next chair will be Kristy Fercho. She's a leader on this issue who will double down on what we're doing. She'll make great strides to expand minority homeownership nationwide.  

Ever since I made this issue my main focus, I've been touched by how many of you contacted me and wanted to get engaged. You've told me you want to stand up and speak out. You want to inspire your peers and be part of the solution - and you are. As an MBA member, you're already moving the ball forward faster than I thought possible even six months ago.

In the days ahead, I hope you stay engaged and even deepen your commitment. We have a chance to open the door to the American Dream for millions of people. This is a matter of equality, opportunity and justice - and we will get it done.

I couldn't be more grateful for how far you've already helped us come. And I couldn't be more excited to see how far we'll go, and how many people we'll empower, together.  

Thank you again for joining us and for your support of MBA.