Wednesday, June 4 (Chester, Pennsylvania) - The HUD Homeownership Express pulled into Chester, Pennsylvania, this morning on day two of its cross-country expedition. The visit marked the completion of the Wellington Ridge HOPE VI housing community and highlighted one family's successful journey from public housing to homeownership.
In 1998, HUD awarded the Chester Housing Authority a $9 million HOPE VI grant to demolish and rebuild McCaffery Village, which had been a notoriously crime-ridden neighborhood infested with drugs and marred by dilapidated housing. With its HOPE VI funding, the housing authority and its partners created a mixed-income community in which homeowners live alongside subsidized renters in modern town homes.
At today's ceremony, Kristen Morgan told the inspirational and deeply moving story of how she and her husband Carl will soon be living their dreams by becoming homeowners at Wellington Ridge.
Since their wedding day two and a half years ago, Kristen and Carl have been saving to a buy a new home and build a new life for their family. They heard that financial help and housing education programs were available from the Chester Economic Development Authority and Chester Community Improvement Project. After successfully completing the classes, the Morgans began house hunting - only to grow disheartened by housing prices that were beyond their budget.
Then they heard about the new affordable homes going up at Wellington Ridge.
Kristen and Carl had done their homebuying homework, but luck was definitely on their side, too. The couple won a $1,000 down payment at the Chester Homebuyer Fair last year and with that, became the first family to sign up for a Wellington Ridge home. They move into their new town home later this month.
Kristen grew up with her mother at the old McCaffery Village, and when they moved out for the demolition, she remembered wondering what would ever become of all that land. "I would have never imagined this community back when I used to live here because now it has a warm, positive, safe, and community feeling which just wasn't here before," Kristen says. "I am proud to be here, to raise my family here, and to support my old neighborhood."
Perhaps most important for Kristen is the fact that having a new home - where the monthly payment is actually lower than what renting would cost the family - means that she won't have to work, and will be able to stay at home with their infant son.
Kristen encouraged other families to ask questions and get involved in local programs that promote affordable homeownership. She said, "I think people sometimes don't stop to think about an opportunity like this till it's gone. That's why I want to help other people to stop, think, and trust in these programs and say, 'I can do it, I can own my own home!'"
Joining in today's celebration were Carolyn Peoples, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity; City of Chester Mayor Wendell Butler; U.S. Rep. Robert Brady; and representatives from Fannie Mae, Chester Housing Authority, Chester Community Improvement Project, Chester Partners in Homeownership, and the Chester Economic Development Authority.
For the second year in a row, the Bush Administration is highlighting the full month of June to underscore the importance of homeownership, and to focus national attention on initiatives to expand the American Dream to even more Americans. Over the course of the month, the Homeownership Express bus will travel 8,500 miles, visiting cities from coast to coast with this special HUD message - homeownership empowers families and America's communities!
Tomorrow: The Big Apple welcomes the Homeownership Express.