‘American dream’: St. Cloud’s Somali families see homebuying as path to grow wealth, sink roots – MPR News

Bishar Hassan’s parents and five siblings had lived as renters in the 16 years since coming to the United States. But their rental house felt increasingly cramped, and when the building’s owner said he was selling, Hassan knew it was time to move.

He helped his family buy a house in north St. Cloud, with a large yard, three bathrooms and at 2,900 square feet, far more space than they had before. Equally important to him, it put them on a path to building wealth.

“When you’re renting, you’re actually paying someone else’s mortgage and you’re not really getting anything back,” Hassan said. “But when you own a house, it’s an investment for you, and you get that back.”

Owning a home has long been viewed as an economic stepping stone in America, a source of pride that can build generational wealth for families and stability for neighborhoods and cities. 

It’s a prize, though, that Minnesota’s new immigrants sometimes find out of reach. While many have the income to buy a home, they face significant challenges, including rising home prices, an extremely tight real estate market and, in some places, prejudices that make them feel unwelcome.

Muslims face another unique barrier: a rule in Islam that prohibits profiting from lending or receiving money. So getting a conventional mortgage that charges interest isn’t permitted.

With St. Cloud’s East African population rising rapidly, finding answers is important to the city’s future. As many as 70 percent of the region’s Somali community lives below the federal poverty line, according to a recent Wilder Foundation report. Home ownership can be a poverty fighter.

‘American dream’ elusive

Mohamed Nuh Dahir rented an apartment when he first came to St. Cloud 20 years ago. After he got married and had five children, Dahir said the three-bedroom apartment was getting crowded.

After looking for years for opportunities to buy a home without paying interest, he purchased a five-bedroom house in southeast St. Cloud in 2020 that offers his family more space. 

“Everyone is happy,” he said. “Everyone has their own room. They have an area they can play. It’s so different.”

Dahir, who is imam of the Islamic Center of St. Cloud, said he thinks home ownership benefits people of all communities, but especially for Somali families, who tend to be larger and close-knit. He said more families have been looking to buy homes in the past couple of years, and the mosque sometimes offers educational classes on home ownership.

Imam Mohamed Nuh Dahir stands at the Islamic Center of St. Cloud on April 17, 2020.

Paul Middlestaedt …….

Source: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2022/04/13/american-dream-st-clouds-somali-families-see-homebuying-as-path-to-grow-wealth-sink-roots