2004 NBA All-Star Game - Celebrities

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According to Forbes Magazine, the already dire Black homeownership gap has only worsened since The Great Recession. The homeownership rate of Black households lags far behind those of their non-Hispanic white counterparts (45.1% vs. 73.8%). So, Will Smith’s venture capital firm Dreamers VC, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, and Sequoia Capital raised $165 million in funding for Landis Technologies, a startup whose “rent-to-own” model aims to make the home buying process easier for those facing certain financial difficulties.

Landis co-founder Tom Petit expressed the firm’s objective in a press release. “We understand that people can fall on tough times, but no one should be locked out of homeownership forever,” he said. “Whatever their situation, we give our clients easy, achievable steps to become eligible for a mortgage. Getting ready for a mortgage is often a stressful and difficult process. Landis makes it easy, fun and approachable.”

Landis assesses if a financially-challenged, but prospective homebuyer will be able to purchase a home within the next 12-24 months. If the applicant is approved, Landis creates a budget according to which the applicant selects a new home. Then Landis buys the property and, in turn, rents the home to the applicant, who is also assigned a coach in preparation to eventually assume ownership of the property.

“What makes Landis unique is our ability to coach anyone to homeownership,” co-founder Cyril Berdugo said. “This new funding will allow us to help more Americans on their path to homeownership by expanding to new states, hiring talent nationwide, and providing a better experience to our clients and partner agents and lenders.”

Landis also announced it made the Landis Homeownership Coach app available to everyone with an iPhone. The free app provides credit monitoring tools, a budget dashboard, and tailored objectives to help make your new home a reality.

“We are proud to have invested in Landis,” the Fresh Prince said in his statement. “Landis is an innovative company that also has a social mission we are aligned with. We are excited to be part of a journey that helps Americans achieve homeownership through financial education.”