- AJ Barkley was one of Insider’s 100 people transforming real estate.
- She leads the neighborhood and community lending program for the second largest US bank.
- The bank’s program helps builds generational wealth and revitalize communities.
AJ Barkley spends most of her day trying to help people overcome the hurdles they’ve faced in buying a home.
It’s her job: Barkley helms a Bank of America lending program aimed at increasing homeownership in multicultural and historically underserved communities.
She’s naturally informed by the applicants but also by her experiences outside the office. In fact, she says the rationale for the bank’s $15 billion Community Homeownership Commitment seems to follow her everywhere she goes in the Dallas metro area, where she is based.
One day, while out to dinner at a local restaurant, her waiter who had dreamed about homeownership and who’d seen TV ads about BofA’s efforts in the area, asked Barkley more about the program. After a brief chat, she left the waiter her business card.
About 90 days later, Barkley got a call from a familiar voice. “You didn’t just help me get a home, you helped me think about my household,” she said, quoting the waiter who placed the call.
The waiter’s story is just one example of Barkley’s success taking the lead on BofA’s program in 2019.
As of the end of September, the program had helped nearly 38,000 people access homeownership through allocating $9.9 billion in loans to these homeowners and $370 million in grants, according to a Bank of America spokesperson.
A feature of that commitment is a mortgage program that sets aside requirements that often prove to be obstacles to borrowers trying to get traditional loans. The hope is that this program — introduced in August as the Community Affordable Loan Solution — will reduce the hurdles faced by Black and Hispanic households, and others often disenfranchised from the housing market.
Unlike with most mortgage applications, this one requires no minimum credit score or mortgage insurance — two hurdles for borrowers with checkered or no credit histories, and for those without the ability to save a down payment. Instead, the bank requires some financial education in the form of homebuyer-certification course.
Through the course, people “become well aware and educated on tools or resources to help position them for homeownership,” she said.
Creating first-generation homeowners rewarding, she said.
“It makes me feel that I am being purposeful,” she said. “The support that the bank is giving will change generations, not just the initial person that purchases the home, but it can change the trajectory of a family two generations out.”
More broadly, she’s trying to have an impact on entire communities where upgrades are needed, block after block. When houses are refurbished, the rest of the community will hopefully see the benefits that come from homeownership, she said.