Why a School Took on the Problem of Homeownership

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Stairs Team

Jun 29, 2022

Study after study has shown clear links between a family’s housing stability and their child’s educational attainment. Enabling access to down payment assistance lifts up families, children and communities. That’s why One City Schools agreed to serve as the pilot site last year for Own It: Building Black Wealth

When I helped start One City in 2014 with Kaleem Caire, we envisioned creating a pipeline of educational opportunity for the most traditionally underserved students in our hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. We quickly realized that we had to build a truly two-generational model that met our families where they were.

So, we turned to the community. Over several hours-long listening sessions in our neighborhood in South Madison, we consistently heard that schools (as they are normally structured) simply do not meet the needs of working families. 

That’s why we built a two-generation model that goes beyond the scope of what most schools offer:

  • an extended school day and school year, providing 40% more instructional time over the course of the calendar year

  • our Healthy Meals Program, with three meals a day freshly prepared on-site by an Executive Chef with no canned goods or preservatives

  • A parent engagement program in the evenings through Families and Schools Together (FAST)


Through the Building Black Wealth program, qualifying families and staff of One City Schools had access to a $15,000 grant for a down payment towards a single-family home or duplex purchase. Recipients must first successfully complete a six-session wealth building course and a four-session homeownership course – that’s it. Thus far, in less than one year of the program:

– 7 families applied and were approved for the $15,000 down payment grant on February 25, 2022. (next application window is July 2022)

– 4 families have purchased homes with their $15,000 down payment grant after completing the education program, one has an accepted offer and will close later in June. 

– 48 families have completed the Wealth Building Course. 14 participants completed the Homeownership course in January 2022. (With a second homeownership course is in progress.)

– $350,000+ has been raised so far for the downpayment fund (which will help 23 families).

Own It: Building Black Wealth is offered in partnership with a network of Madison area professionals in the real estate, banking, and financial industries. Spearheaded by The Alvarado Group, six local brokerages, and dozens of their agents, systematically contribute a portion or percentage of their commission checks (or make a monthly contribution) to the Own It: Building Black Wealth down payment fund, which also gets corporate and individual donor support. Families are not restricted to this network of brokers, but are encouraged to bring whoever they work with into the industry pledge.


Vivek Ramakrishnan is the Co-Founder of One City Schools and a Stanford MBA student. Drawn to the company’s mission of enabling homeownership for young Americans, he is interning with Stairs Financial this summer.

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