Financial Support for Black and Non-White Hispanic Prospective Homebuyers in South Orange and Maplewood (SOMA)

We know what you’re thinking

  • “Can we really afford to buy a home in SOMA?”

  • “Can we even get a mortgage with our current credit score?”
  • “Will SOMA truly embrace my Black family?”

If these are questions you’ve asked yourself, then you’re exactly who we have in mind. We encourage you to apply for the loan.

We know that the home-buying process can be daunting. It can be uncomfortable and even unfair, but with the Wealth Gap Equalizer Loan (WGEL), our  community is working to make buying a home in South Orange and Maplewood (SOMA) more attainable for our Black and non-White Hispanic neighbors.

Request Application

What is the Wealth Gap Equalizer Loan (WGEL)?

The WGEL program is a Special Purpose loan intended to narrow the racial wealth and home ownership gap by making home-buying more attainable for Black and non-White Hispanic families in the South Orange and Maplewood communities. The program offers unsecured, no-interest loans that will provide ready cash for Black and non-White Hispanic families to successfully compete in the home-buying process, including supplemental cash for purchase offers, down payments, closing costs, legal fees, and other transactions related to homebuying.

Who can apply for the WGEL program?

Individuals applying for the WGEL program must be:

  • Black or non-White Hispanic
  • A First-time Home Buyer (FTHB)
  • Purchasing a South Orange or Maplewood property as primary residence
  • In possession of a lender’s Mortgage Pre-Approval Letter

A happy family gathered for a portrait
Another happy SOMA family

What are the terms of the loan?

WGEL offers qualifying participants an interest-free, unsecured loan of up to $7,500. The funds are non-transferable and must be repaid in 5 years or less.  There are no penalties for early repayment. Borrowers are not required to leverage any assets. Up to 50% of the loan is eligible for loan forgiveness after 5 years residency for purchases made in South Orange.

With all this talk about the racial wealth gap, why is SOMA right for my family?

The racial wealth gap is a nation-wide, long-standing equity issue for Black and non-White Hispanic people. In New Jersey, the wealth gap exceeds the national average, making it even harder for these households to build generational wealth. Without intentional action, this inequity won’t soon end.

The good news is that South Orange and Maplewood are two towns that are taking action to address all kinds of racial inequities. With initiatives like the Wealth Gap Equalizer Loan, the Coalition on Race strives to preserve residential racial integration, as well as to establish policies and practices that make our towns uniquely welcoming and more supportive for all.

A beautiful, smiling family
Request Application

To apply for the WGEL program, applicants must:

  • Meet all of the application qualifications
  • Complete a HUD-Approved First Time Home Buyer program
  • Complete the WGEL application packet on the ChooseSOMA website
  • Take part in a brief interview at closing

What does the loan application process look like?

The WGEL application process is designed to move quickly so that you can stay competitive in the housing market. On average, approved applicants should expect to receive a final decision on their application within 7 business days. Once approved, the funds are distributed directly by the Community Coalition on Race.

Wealth Gap Equalizer Loan Program Phases

Complete FTHB program

1.

Complete a HUD Approved, Certified First Time Home Buyer Program

Submit application

2.

Submit Your WGEL Application

Run through this checklist at home to verify that you’re eligible for the WGEL program. Submit your application if you meet the below criteria.

  • Black or non-White Hispanic
  • A First Time Home Buyer (FTHB)
  • Purchasing a South Orange or Maplewood property as primary residence
  • Mortgage Pre-Approval Letter
  • A Certificate of Completion from a HUD Approved FTHB Program
Request Application

3.

Application Review & Notification

Completed applications are reviewed within 72 hours of receipt. You will receive an approval or denial letter by email within 7 business days of submission. Additional documents may be requested during this phase.

4.

Interview & Loan Issuance

  • Review loan terms and expectations
  • Prior to closing, submit Mortgage Commitment Letter and completed 1003 application form
  • Sign closing documents

Do you want to know more about the Community Coalition on Race?

The South Orange-Maplewood Community Coalition on Race is a nationally recognized non-profit focused on racial integration, equity, and inclusion that has been a part of the South Orange and Maplewood communities for over 25 years. We are committed to building and preserving a community free of racial segregation where there is equity for all. Learn more about us at CommunityCoalitionOnRace.org(opens in a new tab)

Frequently Asked Questions

WGEL is Special Purpose loan, up to $7,500, intended to narrow the wealth and home ownership gap. The program relies on interest-free, unsecured loans that will enable historically disadvantaged families to successfully compete in the home buying process by providing supplemental cash for purchase offers, down payments, closing costs, legal fees and other transactions related to home buying.

Thanks to generous support from the Township of South Orange, homebuyers purchasing a property in South Orange are eligible to have up to 50% their WGEL loan forgiven if they agree to remain in the purchased property 5 years post-closing.

An eligible applicant must be a Black or non-White Hispanic first-time homebuyer purchasing a property in South Orange or Maplewood and have a mortgage pre-approval letter.
Applicants can apply for any amount, up to $7,500, that they need.
You are considered a first-time homebuyer if you have not owned a home within the last three years.
Please view our WGEL flowcharts for a breakdown on the steps of applying for the WGEL program.

Yes, FTHB courses can be completed online. Applicants should contact a local HUD-approved Housing Counseling agency to find out more information about these courses. Please note, WEGL applicants are required to obtain a certificate from a HUD-approved First-Time Homebuyer Program.

No. To be eligible for a WEGL loan, the home must be in South Orange or Maplewood.

Yes. Housing cooperative properties are not eligible for this program.

The WGEL program does not require a minimum or maximum credit score. The program does not evaluate credit. However, in order to be eligible for WGEL, the applicant must have a mortgage pre-approval letter. Approved WGEL applicants will also be required to obtain the necessary financing to purchase a home.

No. The WGEL program does not evaluate income or employment. However, in order to be eligible for WGEL, the applicant must have a mortgage pre-approval letter. Approved WGEL applicants will also be required to obtain the necessary financing to purchase a home.

Yes. WGEL will not disqualify an applicant for having a co-signer on their mortgage.

WGEL was established to support racial integration in housing for South Orange and Maplewood, based on current racial demographics and housing trends.

WGEL is offered and managed as part of the Community Coalition on Race’s Pro-integration Strategy for South Orange and Maplewood NJ.

This program is a special purpose credit program targeted to “benefit of an economically disadvantaged class of persons,” as authorized by federal law. See 12 CFR Part 1002 (Regulation B). WGEL’s special purpose is enhance home ownership opportunities for Black and non-white Hispanics, both groups who have been historically disadvantaged in the building of generational wealth, including home ownership, by the forces of white supremacy. As mentioned above, right here in Essex County, over 80% of white households have enough cash resources to live at the poverty level for three months in the absence of income BUT only 45% of Black households, 42% of Hispanic households and fewer than 50% of households of color do. This wealth disparity is more severe when you look at local data surrounding homeownership. Again, right here in Essex County, almost 70% of white households own their homes but only 27 % of Black households, 30% of Hispanic households and 31 % of households of color do.1


1See the Prosperity Now Scorecard, Local Income Report, Essex County, located at https://scorecard.prosperitynow.org/reports#report-local-outcome

For the purposes of WGEL, non-white Hispanic applies to any individual of Hispanic or Latino background who identifies as a person of color.

While individuals of all races struggle with poverty and face injustice, data clearly establishes that in our nation, in our state and in our county, Black and non-white Hispanic people have disproportionately been impacted by historical and current inequities throughout the home purchasing process. Right here in Essex County, over 80% of white households have enough cash resources to live at the poverty level for three months in the absence of income BUT only 45% of Black households, 42% of Hispanic households and fewer than 50% of households of color do. This wealth disparity is more severe when you look at local data surrounding homeownership. Again, right here in Essex County, almost 70% of white households own their homes but only 27 % of Black households, 30% of Hispanic households and 31 % of households of color do.

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