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Honoring Women Fostering the Expansion of Homeownership

The Five Star Institute is quickly approaching the 20th anniversary of the Five Star Conference & Expo, set for September 18-20 at the Hyatt Regency Dallas.

At the event, Five Star will host the 12th Annual Women in Housing Leadership Awards event, recognizing the achievements of remarkable businesswomen whose contributions continue to impact the housing and mortgage servicing industry. The program will include a special keynote presentation, brought to you by Auction.com, featuring the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Assistant Secretary for Housing and Federal Housing Commissioner, Julia R. Gordon. Following the keynote will be the highly anticipated “Inside the She-Suite” discussion led by Wells Fargo's Head of Home Loan Servicing, Ann Thorn, that features the industry’s top-ranking female executives addressing the challenges and successes of breaking through the glass ceiling and into the corner office.

We have already introduced you to the five finalists for Five Star’s 2023 Rising Star Executive Award, an honor recognizing young women leaders who, while still early in their careers, have demonstrated an outstanding capability to lead and drive progress; and the 2023 Leadership Award, a distinction that recognizes transformative women leaders who have built diverse, high-performing teams; developed business solutions that impact homeownership across the industry and nation; and have worked to empower and promote women in C-Suite and leadership positions.

Today, we introduce the five finalists for the Keys in Hand Award, a new award presented by Five Star that spotlights industry executives working to expand homeownership in America, especially for first-time homeowners, providing a critical source of intergenerational wealth.

Congratulations to the following five finalists on being recognized by their peers for Five Star’s 2023 Keys in Hand Award:

AJ Barkley
Head of Neighborhood and Community Lending
Bank of America
What People Are Saying
“For over two decades, AJ Barkley has supported clients’ homeownership goals, driving opportunities for low- and moderate-income borrowers, multicultural communities, and first-time buyers. She’s responsible for developing two of Bank of America’s (BofA) industry-leading signature programs: the $15 billion Community Homeownership Commitment and the Community Affordable Loan Solution. Under AJ’s leadership, BofA introduced the industry’s most generous down payment and closing cost grants of up to $17,500—more than $400 million in grants and $11 billion in loans, 87% to first-time homebuyers.”

What This Nomination Means to Her
“I’m incredibly honored to be nominated for the inaugural Keys in Hand Award, as I’ve made it my mission to open the doors to affordable homeownership for more people, including low- and moderate-income borrowers, multicultural communities, and first-time buyers. I firmly believe owning a home is still one of the best ways to create economic mobility, and I’m so happy to help clients recognize that they are realizing a dream and building generational wealth. This nomination gives me an extra boost of determination to remove barriers, close gaps, and make homeownership accessible to all. It validates that every stride, solution, and instance of assistance contributes to a meaningful transformation in the lives of individuals. I embrace this nomination with humility and gratitude and am thankful to continue to advance equitable access to homeownership.”

Jenise Hight
VP, Single-Family Credit Risk Policy
Fannie Mae
What People Are Saying
“Over the past 16 years at Fannie Mae, Jenise has been dedicated to developing servicing policies and supporting loss mitigation strategies that drive Fannie Mae’s mission to facilitate equitable and sustainable homeownership. Jenise led many critical policy initiatives that made a positive impact on the housing environment during the housing crisis of 2008 and the recent global pandemic. She also led recent efforts to update policies that encourage more lenders to participate in programs that provide increased access to credit for low- to moderate-income homebuyers.”

What This Nomination Means to Her
“I am grateful first for the nomination and then to be further considered as a finalist for the 2023 Keys in Hand Award. This nomination serves as confirmation of the hard but rewarding work I lead daily as a member of Fannie Mae’s Credit Risk Policy team to make a difference in people’s everyday lives through homeownership and a positive impact on the housing finance industry. I find great satisfaction in serving my community by contributing to Fannie Mae’s mission to facilitate equitable and sustainable access to homeownership, allowing for the creation of intergenerational wealth for first-generation homeowners through policies that support initiatives such as positive rental payment history and cashflow underwriting. And just as important is to ensure that we provide solutions to keep keys in hands during times of financial uncertainty. It is a great honor to be recognized for doing what I love.”

Vanessa Lindow
Right Path Servicing
What People Are Saying
“Vanessa transitioned to the Mr. Cooper Group to lead the Right Path Servicing brand. She was able to integrate much of the culture and special servicing techniques to make it a success. Vanessa is, of course, knowledgeable in all that is mortgage servicing, and she is never afraid to jump into initiatives in order to get the job done.”

What This Nomination Means to Her
“The nomination of the Keys in Hands Award holds immense emotional significance to me after dedicating over 25 years focused on residential homeownership with a specialty in foreclosure avoidance in residential loan servicing over the last 15 years. Coming from an immigrant family, this recognition not only validates my core values and strong belief in the American Dream but also serves as an acknowledgment of the countless individuals and families whose lives I have positively impacted throughout my career and a credit to my amazing team, mentors, and leaders, whose guidance, support, and belief in me are the reasons behind this recognition. My greatest professional reward is saving a home and preventing the loss of generational wealth that many will agree is built through homeownership. The nomination for the Keys in Hands Award signifies the positive impact I have made on the lives of homeowners, the dedication I have shown toward their financial well-being, and the recognition of my friendly, creative, and smart approach to helping others. This nomination motivates me to continue being a compassionate helper in the years to come.”

Erin Persons
VP, Government Relations and Community Development
What People Are Saying
“Erin Persons is a trailblazer for expanding homeownership. She played a pivotal role in helping HUD start a First Look program and contributed to the Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative of 2014, making more single-family homes available to owner-occupants. Erin is at the forefront of expanding homeownership. She tirelessly champions the expanded First Look program under CWCOT, enlightening buyers, sellers, and government agencies. Erin is a visionary driving homeownership forward.”

What This Nomination Means to Her
“I am honored to be recognized as a finalist for the Keys in Hand Award for 2023. This nomination resonates with my commitment to ensuring that every family with the desire to own a home can turn that aspiration into reality. This award symbolizes a collective dedication to the fundamental principle that safe and stable housing is not merely a privilege but an essential right for all. I am humbled to be considered among this remarkable group of nominated women, who have dedicated innumerable hours addressing housing inequality and raising awareness about the plight of marginalized communities. This nomination serves as a reminder to continue the mission of providing keys to homes for all who dream of homeownership, regardless of socio-economic background. It fuels my passion to champion affordable housing initiatives. With this recognition, I am further empowered to advocate for a future where everyone can unlock the door to a brighter, more equitable tomorrow.”

Stacey Walker
Director, Single-Family Affordable Lending
Freddie Mac
What People Are Saying
“Stacey Walker, a more than 20-year veteran of Freddie Mac, leads our efforts nationwide in consumer and homeowner education, propelling thousands into homeownership. She and her team oversee Freddie Mac’s network of Borrower Help Centers and other nonprofit housing counseling agencies to prepare consumers for homeownership. In 2022, along with other partners, these centers provided homebuyer education to more than 104,000 consumers, one-on-one prepurchase counseling to 40,000 individuals, and foreclosure avoidance education and counseling to more than 41,000 households. Her dedication led to the successful overhaul of the CreditSmart housing education and financial capability curricula, which were created more than 20 years ago. Under her leadership, CreditSmart has been translated into multiple languages to reach more potential homeowners.”

What the Nomination Means to Her
“It is an honor to be recognized as a finalist for the Keys in Hand award, not just for me but also for our devoted team at Freddie Mac working to advocate and prepare consumers for sustainable homeownership. This award, which spotlights our efforts to expand homeownership in America, especially for first-time homeowners, low- to moderate-income homeowners, and those in historically underserved markets, aligns with our mission of making home possible for all. Thank you to the Five Star Conference and to the leaders at Freddie Mac who continue to support this crucial work.”

Click here for more information on the 20th Annual Five Star Conference & Expo, and click here for more information on the Women in Housing Leadership Awards luncheon.

About Author: Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck has 20-plus years’ experience covering the mortgage industry, he most recently served as Editor-in-Chief for The Mortgage Press and National Mortgage Professional Magazine. Peck graduated from the New York Institute of Technology where he received his B.A. in Communication Arts/Media. After graduating, he began his professional career with Videography Magazine before landing in the mortgage space. Peck has edited three published books and has served as Copy Editor for Entrepreneur.com.

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