Two tribal families share homeownership happiness

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

PENDLETON, OR � Umatilla tribal members have taken advantage of the counseling services offered by their tribal housing authority and the Section 184 Indian Housing Loan Guarantee Program to become homeowners.

[Photo: Left to right is Pam Ranslam-Schofield, Aaron Jackson, Brad and Kelly Spencer and children, Naomi Stacy and Barbara Roloff]
Pam Ranslam-Schofield, mortgage specialist and Barbara Roloff, Home Ownership Program manager are to far left and right, respectively. Between them standing in front of their own homes: Aaron Jackson, Brad and Kelly Spencer and children, and Naomi Stacy. They took the Umatilla Reservation Housing Authority Home Ownership Program, fixed their credit, saved their money, and successfully applied for loans and purchased homes.

The HUD 184 Program, which gives Native Americans and Alaska Natives access to sources of private mortgage financing by providing loan guarantees to lenders, extends to them the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of homeownership.

The Jackson Family: Every month for a dozen years, Aaron Jackson signed a check to make the payment on somebody else's mortgage. He signed up for credit cards one after the other, amassing $10,000 in debt. He didn't pay attention to interest rates and paid his bills when he felt like it. He was a perfect client for the Financial Literacy and Home Ownership Program at the Umatilla Reservation Housing Authority (URHA).

Today, Jackson and his wife, Brittney, and their two young daughters, live in a 1,500-square-foot home they purchased on the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Jackson is one of 12 tribal members who has worked his way out of debt and into a new home through the Umatilla Reservation Housing Authority (URHA) Home Ownership Program, which has become a model in Indian Country, providing assistance and information to Indian tribes across the country.

Two years ago, tired of "throwing away" the rent money and anxious to find a place to accommodate a growing family, the Jacksons enrolled in the URHA Home Ownership classes.

"The classes were free, two hours once a week for me and my wife. Childcare and dinner were provided. There was no reason not to be there," Aaron said.

Before he learned anything about mortgages and escrow, Jackson learned about credit. He started by reducing the number of credit cards; then he worked at paying off all his debts.

Before he qualified for a loan, he still had to prove his worthiness, by staying on top of bills and saving for a down payment. He was rewarded for his efforts. Once Jackson saved $1,500 � and showed he could tuck away money consistently for six straight months in an Individual Development Account�the Umatilla Saves IDA program contributed $4,500 toward his down payment. Washington Mutual added another $2,000 to help pay closing costs, for the home that was purchased with a Section 184 Indian Loan Guarantee Program mortgage.

The Spencer Family: Brad Spencer feels good every time he pulls into the driveway at his new home. His children remind him that buying a house was the right thing to do. "There's a big window that they put their hands and faces on and they see Daddy driving in and they're smiling and waving at me," said Spencer, who moved with his wife, Kelley, and two daughters�Kaiya, 3, and Kalan, 18 months�into their new home last December. Since then, a third daughter�Keirsen�was born.

"It feels so great to have my own home for my wife and my three girls," said Spencer. "My family and I came to the point in our lives that we needed a place of our own and to quit paying rent. We wanted a place for ourselves. We wanted the American dream."

In 2003, Brad's brother, told him about the home ownership classes offered by the URHA. Through the classes, Spencer said, he learned how to stick to a budget and save, he learned the importance of regular payments and he learned about credit.

"The home ownership classes help with plain talk, easy-to-learn lessons and eye-opening sense. There was no jargon or fine print, just a sharp reality check and realization of how important it is to save, to work on your credit report and to spend money wisely."

Barb Roloff, manager of the URHA Home Ownership Program, and Pam Ranslam-Schofield, mortgage specialist, explained all the details. Spencer said. "Pam was there during the signing at the title company for the closing of the loan and she knew exactly what was on the paper. She explained to me what I was signing, not just telling me to sign by the X," he said.

The Spencers also used the Section 184 Indian Housing Loan Guarantee Program to purchase their 1,200 square foot three-bedroom home. "It's great," Spencer said. "My wife and I love it, and so do the girls."

Nearby there are several tribal members or employees, including Aaron Jackson and his family, who also have attained home ownership through the URHA program.

Excerpts of 3 articles reprinted with permission of the Confederated Umatilla Journal, April, 2005 issue.

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