Ahead Start

[Photo: Chris Jenson and Daughter]

With all the news about bankruptcies and foreclosures, it's hard not to be sometimes overcome by gloom and doom. But take a deep breath and take another look, because all around us there's still lots of good news, still lots of people making dreams come true, still lots of families buying homes.

Like Christine Jensen, a single mom in Lewiston, Idaho. In 2006, she signed up with the Idaho Housing and Finance Association to participate in a HUD Family Self-Sufficiency program open to folks who receive HUD Housing Choice Vouchers rental assistance. The program helps partricipants learn to take control of their lives, set and achieve specific goals and, ultimately, to achieve financial independence.

On her enrollment form Christine said her primary goal was to own a home. Under the FSS program, she was supposed to achieve that goal within five years. Thanks to a little luck and a lot of hard work, she became a homeowner in less than two.

It wasn't easy. FSS participants agree to a fairly strict, step-by-step regimen to get to their goal. Christine, for example, attended a Finally Home!® Homebuyer Education class to make sure she clearly understood everything buying - and, yes, owning - a home would require of her. She also had to scrimp and save and start an emergency savings account. And she had to do the not always pleasant work of clearing out bad and building up good credit.

She also had goals to achieve in her work life, including successful completion of training at work that would increase her opportunities for upward mobility and, obviously, for increasing her income, all the while making sure that the job she already had was being done well.

What was the hardest part? Maybe sitting down with IHFA's Debbie Winchester to set up - and figure out how to live within - a monthly budget, a critical step in making sure she'd have the resources to buy a house. "It was an eye-opening experience when I realized where my money was going. Now when I go into a store, I ask myself if I really need what I'm purchasing," Christine says.

She also had the good fortune to join the Idaho Individual Development Account (IDA) program through a partnership with United Way of Treasure Valley and IHFA. IDA provides a match of two dollars for every one a participant deposits in a savings account earmarked for achieving FSS goals. Thanks to the Recovery Act, as a new homeowner, she'd be eligible for a Federal tax credit of 10 percent of a home�s purchase price - up to $8,000. Act. Though this credit is not part of the FSS program, it's one more benefit that, these days, is making homebuying more affordable for folks like Christine.

Thanks to sticking within her budget and the IDA match, in just seven months Christine had saved enough for a down payment. She was ready, willing and, yes, eager to buy a home - two years ahead of her original schedule!

And now she - and her nine-year-old daughter, are the proud, happy occupants of a 3-bedroom, 1,200 square-foot home in Lewiston. "My daughter loves it, she just turned nine and got to pick out the color of her bedroom. She has a playroom in the basement, and I have an arts and scrapbook room and family room. It's great to have so much space."

"It's great, too, to be a homeowner." After living in an apartment for so long, there are no words to describe how I feel. The past four years have been really hard for my daughter and me, so owning our own home is exciting."

Content Archived: August 15, 2011