Homebuyers' Workshop Graduates 93 in Helena

[Photo 1:  93 graduates at the Rocky Mountain Development Council]
Homebuyers' gather for graduation ceremony

[Photo 2:  Sarita Santiago with her son learning a variety of programs and products]
Sarita Santiago talks about her new homeownership opportunities

[Photo 3:  Mayor Smith receiving award from Field Office Director Friesen]
Field Office Director Tom Friesen presents award to Mayor James Smith of Helena

[Photo 4:  Beki Brandborg holding the award from Tom Friesen]
Beki Brandborg receives award from Tom Friesen

After successfully completing a 9-week course called the "First Time Homebuyers' Workshop Series," 93 graduates were recognized for their accomplishments at the Rocky Mountain Development Council on June 25 in Helena, Montana. The course, now in its 7th year, has trained over 1300 residents of Lewis and Clark County. What was initially started by the Helena Area Task force as an informal discussion on homeownership options, has now grown into a full curriculum that focuses on a wide range of homeownership topics to enable students to become informed and sophisticated homebuyers. Students are introduced to a variety of programs and products that assist first-time homebuyers, including FHA programs presented by Don Smith from the Helena Field Office. Similar presentations from Rural Development, Home Choice, Fannie Mae and the IRS educate prospective homebuyers about other loan options and choices. Loan officers explain the importance of loan pre-qualification and credit reports, and each student is able to engage in a personal session with a loan officer to discuss options and opportunities.

Graduates, such as Sarita Santiago with her son, are given the opportunity to benefit from a HOME-funded program for first-time homebuyers called HOPE, one of several options open to the students. HOPE utilizes HOME funds to buy-down mortgages by $25,000 making homeownership possible for persons earning between $18,000 and $24,000, and a typical mortgage between $65,000 and $80,000. The program has assisted 24 families with homeownership in the last 14 months. With a recent $500,000 HOME grant from HUD and $1.8M of leveraging from other sources, HOPE will expand to assist more graduates in the future. Their goal is to become a self-sustaining loan fund that can survive on its own.

After Mayor James Smith presented a certificate to each of the graduates, HUD's Field Office Director presented awards to several key players who developed the successful homebuyer education course that is now offered three times each year for Helena residents. Awards went to the Helena Area Housing Task Force and their Board Chair, Sharon Haugen, for their initiation of the program and their on-going commitment to assuring its success; to Beki Brandborg, the organizer and facilitator for the class sessions and the one who has given countless hours of volunteer effort to the program; and to Mayor James Smith, known as Helena's strongest supporter of homebuyer education. The Mayor, having benefited personally from homebuyer education, attends all of graduations and is a frequent graduation speaker. To support the graduates and those receiving plaques, attendance at the event included representatives from Fannie Mae, Rural Development, Senator Burns office, the Montana Board of Realtors, the Montana Board of Housing, several lenders and title companies, Habitat for Humanity and the Federal Reserve Bank.

For more information about future Homebuyers' Workshops in Helena, contact Beki Brandborg at (406) 442-2265.


Content Archived: April 12, 2011