A family of four, including two parents and two young children, are standing on a front porch outside of their home.

Fahe Members Provide Community Stability through Crises with Homeownership

appalachia, Housing | September 2, 2020

Fahe Members are dedicated to providing opportunity and stability for families and communities through increased access to quality housing. They work hard to prepare future and current homeowners for success through resources and education on homeownership and finance. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this dedication is crucial as we face times of economic uncertainty and transition.

“Each family we work with is unique,” said Jamie Gross, Senior Housing Counselor at Fahe Member People, Inc. based in Abingdon, VA.  “Because of this, you have to build a package that is custom fit to the family.  Sometimes it takes a combination of different programs and services to make everything work.  It takes time and knowledge, but you have to do your best for the family so they can succeed.”

Jamie recently celebrated with Brandon and Angela Presley and their sons Bennett and Ryan as they moved into their new home.  The Presleys worked with Jamie for 13 months on various areas of homeownership, and over that course of time the Presleys were able to learn, prepare, and ultimately change their lives. 

“I’m excited to finally own a home,” said Brandon.  “We had lived in our apartment for six years and they were getting ready to raise the rent for a cost-of-living increase, which is funny because I wasn’t getting a cost-of-living raise.”  Brandon stated that the difference between the proposed increase in rent and their current mortgage is $320 per month, an amount he’s excited to be saving for his family. 

While first exploring the option of homeownership, a local bank referred Brandon to People Inc. for down payment assistance to qualify for a mortgage loan. “The type of loan they were setting us up with required 2.5% on down payment and we just don’t have that,” said Brandon. “Jamie changed everything when she asked, ‘how about we do something better than down payment assistance?  How about we give you a better loan?’”

The Presleys’ income and location qualified them for a USDA 502 Direct Loan, a mortgage product created to serve rural, low-income households.   People Inc. is a broker with Fahe’s Mortgage Division, JustChoice Lending. By being a broker, Fahe Members and partners are able to offer a wider variety of mortgage products designed for underserved communities, providing access to affordable mortgages while allowing the organizations to earn a fee which helps to increase their capacity to serve more households.

“We’re excited to make memories here as a family,” said Brandon. “It also brings a lot of security.  My son has autism and he used to sleep on the other side of the apartment, which would upset him.  When he learned his new room is beside his parents’, he got excited and now he’s sleeping better.  Plus, we now have the room to teach the boys skills, like how to cook and mow the yard.  I’m also excited about owning our own place because I love to go all out for Christmas.  I’m going to hang lights on everything!”

As mentioned previously, part of helping people become successful homeowners is the ability to assemble a custom fit package.  People Inc. helped the Presleys access a program offered through Virginia Housing  (formerly Virginia Housing Development Authority) that provides $2,000 per family to help eliminate debt, refinance high-interest rates, and raise credit scores upon completion of the program. They also utilized funds from HOME and the Department of Housing and Community Development for closing costs.  All the while Jamie and People Inc. stayed in close contact with the family, helping with planning, credit counseling, and homebuyer education.

“I appreciate there are programs designed for people of different incomes who want a home and that low-income people are given a chance to prove they able to afford a mortgage,” said Brandon. “If I had any advice to give for people in my past situation, I would say don’t jump in headfirst. Wade in, use the steps at the end of the pool.  Take your time, learn, do it right, and you’ll succeed.  Jamie has never left our side. Thanks to what I learned from her, I’m better off financially and I feel secure for the first time ever.  I wouldn’t have a savings without her.  This program is a blessing in every single sense.”

The Presleys are but one of the many families served yearly by People Inc. during its 55 years of helping people realize their dreams.  Though there have been setbacks due to the pandemic, People Inc. has adapted their ways of conducting business so they can continue serving their community in a safe and healthy manner. To learn more about their homeownership program, you can visit People Inc.’s website or contact Jamie Gross by email, jgross@peopleinc.net.

The stability of homeownership is always important, but during the COVID-19 pandemic and the future economic recovery that stability will be essential in ensuring the success of people and communities. 

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