Minnesota Homeownership Center

Featured Grant4/6/17

Turning dreams into reality

The staff at the Minnesota Homeownership Center helps make sustainable homeownership possible, believing that stable housing is critical to healthy, vibrant communities.

During the past 20 years, the Center has provided more than 200,000 people nationally with information and counseling, helping them buy or keep their homes. The housing crisis proved the devastation unstable housing can cause families and communities and prompted the Center to expand its vast in-person education and counseling experience into a digital tool.

In 2012, Framework was born. The comprehensive, online home buyer education program takes roughly six hours to complete, walking a prospective buyer through each step of the process. It offers guidance to determine ownership readiness, explains the mortgage process, reviews what to expect at closing, covers homeowner responsibilities and everything in between. Users receive a one-year subscription. Since inception, 3,000 East Metro households have completed the course and 100,000 nationwide.

A grant from the F. R. Bigelow Foundation helped the Center hire Framework’s first program director in 2015. They’ve since expanded to five full-time staff and now distribute nationally, continuing to modify the program to keep up with best practices and a rapidly changing industry.

“People like Framework because it’s a way to get unbiased information from an organization they trust,” said Ed Nelson, marketing and communications manager. “Often people who haven’t grown up with home ownership have no context for the experience.” Julie Gugin, executive director, said the 24/7 convenience factor has also contributed to Framework’s success. “We are reaching people we never could have before.”

The course also helps people protect themselves. Gugin said, “Unfortunately, there are real estate vultures out there.” She told a story of an East Metro agent and lender team telling Spanish-speaking clients there was a cash-only fee needed at closing. “People who took our course didn’t fall for it. They knew that all transactions should have a paper trail.”

The mobile-friendly module is available in English and Spanish. For people who speak other languages, the Center uses its extensive network to connect the person with a local nonprofit who speaks their language. “With such racial disparities in home ownership, removing language and other barriers to success is critical to our work,” said Nelson.