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Casey Jennings of Chubbuck, Idaho is on the move, enjoying life in the H.O.V. lane. No, not the H.O.V. lane you find on the Interstate that, at least most rush hours, gets you to and from work a few minutes faster than most everybody else, but the Idaho Housing and Finance Association's H.O.V. - Home Ownership Voucher - lane.

Ten years ago, IHFA says, Casey was homeless. So, too, were her six kids.

Fortunately, she was able to qualify for IHFA's Housing Choice Voucher program. Funded by HUD, the program provides Casey with rent subsidies that kept her monthly rent payments to a private landlord at just 30 percent of their gross monthly income.

Casey rented a duplex. A little small, a little crowded, but better than being homeless. After a while, though, Casey began to realize that with the money she and HUD were paying each month for rent she might be able to afford a mortgage. She spoke with her caseworker, Stacy Swan, at IHFA's Idaho Falls office who told her about a Family Self-Sufficiency program in which she could voluntarily enroll and get some help achieving her goal. Casey didn't hesitate.

Thanks to a good job at Idaho State University and her willingness to scrimp and save - even with six kids - sooner than she or Stacy had expected she was able to assemble enough in her bank account to meet the one percent down payment the program required. IHFA then agreed to convert the Housing Choice Voucher Casey had used to pay rent to, instead, a Homeownership Voucher to help her pay a mortgage.

Casey and Staci were smart. They made sure to "right-size" the mortgage so that it was one Casey could afford. Better still, it turned out that she's paying just about the same amount each month to own that, for nine years, she paid to rent.

"It's really great to meet with your caseworker once a month, someone who can help you through the financial aspects and give you information," Casey said. "It's important to have someone there you know is on your side and helping you move forward in life."

A few weeks ago, just in time for the holidays, Casey closed and moved into a four-bedroom house in Chubbuck. Its got a fenced yard with plenty of trees and a family room downstairs that provides that little bit of extra space a family of seven always needs.

"It's just nice to be in my own place, and to not have to keep my kids quiet because it might bother the neighbors," Casey said.

Casey's not the first and, thanks to IHFA's commitment to the homeownership voucher program, she won't be the last person to enter Idaho's H.O.V. lane. In fact, more than 125 Idaho families currently are using homeownership vouchers to help them own their piece of the American Dream.

But Casey is a great example of the fact that with a little bit of help, a little bit of luck and a whole lot of hard work, that dream can come true, even in one of the most difficult housing markets in decades. "Casey just pulled herself up and got a great job," said Stacy Swan, Jennings' caseworker. "She's worked hard to get where she is today." And, you can be pretty sure, she won't be stopping there.


Content Archived: December 2, 2013

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