Home Work

Thursday, August 23, 2007

There are more than a few miles between homelessness and homeownership. Some don't make it. Thanks to a little luck and a lot of hard work, some do.

Like Gloria Mason of Richmond, Virginia, a 60-year old grandmother who is guardian to four children. Back in 2001 she was in trouble. No savings account. $12,000 in outstanding debt. Eviction for non-payment of rent.

Her good fortune was signing on with Virginia Supportive Housing's HomeBuy5 program. And that's where all the hard work came in.

[Photo: Mason family outside their home]
The Mason family in front of their new home.

HomeBuy5 is an anything but easy way to become a homeowner. To participate, families must be U.S. citizens or legal aliens who are or at risk of becoming homeless with legal custody of at least one child. They must earn at least $15,000 a year with outstanding debts below their gross yearly income.

That's when the hard work begins. HomeBuy5 families must complete Wachovia Bank's "Money Smart" financial literacy course. They also must take Core Belief training during which, over seven intense sessions, families are asked to speak frankly and fully about "negative thoughts and behavior that affect" their financial decision making.

And, of course, they must be ready to work and save. Work and save. And work and save some more. until they've cleared their debt and have started putting money aside to buy a home.

But they do get help. HomeBuy5 families participate in the Virginia Individual Development Account program which provides $2 in match for every $1 a family saves. It encourages holders of Housing Choice Vouchers to use them for homeownership. And it helps them put together a down payment using HOME and other resources.

After five years of hard work, in late 2006 Gloria Mason's dream came true, qualifying for a 30-year fixed mortgage to buy a 4-bedroom, tri-level home in Chesterfield County. Hers is one of 19 Richmond area families HomeBuy5 has helped to buy a piece of the American Dream.

More are on the way. HomeBuy5 has been so successful that Virginia Supportive Housing has announced it will launch a similar program in Petersburg, 30 miles south of Richmond. "There is a great need," Virginia Supportive Housing's Deborah Hanson told The Petersburg Progress-Index in August.

Even better, she said, "there are lots of opportunities for partnership" thanks, especially, to Virginia Local Initiatives Support Corporation's plan to create "urban villages" in four Petersburg neighborhoods over the next 10 years, including "at least 60 single family units."

Petersburg "is definitely a hidden gem," says LISC's Ford Weber. Thanks to LISC, Virginia Supportive Housing, partners like Petersburg Urban Ministries and the City of Petersburg and, most importantly, HomeBuy5 families ready, willing and eager to do the kind of hard work Gloria Mason did, that gem is sure to shine even brighter.

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Content Archived: September 09, 2009