ABOVE PHOTO: Over 150 people attended the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s Homeownership Month Celebration at the University of Pennsylvania. The event, which was sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank, provided valuable information to attendees interested in purchasing a home.
The Philadelphia Housing Authority and Wells Fargo Bank encouraged PHA residents and others to take advantage of market conditions and prepare themselves for homeownership. Their message is that, despite the economic downturn, this is one of the best times to buy a home if you’re educated and prepared.
The Homeownership Month Celebration held last Saturday at the University of Pennsylvania’s Houston Hall was aimed primarily at PHA residents, but was open to the public. The agency has helped well over 1,100 residents get into homeownership. Over the years, it has built up partnerships and resources that can help people achieve the American Dream.
“PHA is proud of our residents who have graduated to homeownership and we’re committed to assisting more people meet their goals,” said PHA Administrative Receiver/Executive Director Michael P. Kelly. “It requires hard work and patience, but it is well worth it. Homeownership stabilizes neighborhoods and helps families build an asset base.”
Farah Jimenez, the President/CEO of the People’s Emergency Center and the keynote speaker for the event, said her group is pleased to be PHA’s partner in helping families move from homelessness to homeownership.
PHOTO: Farah Jimenez, President/CEO of the People’s Emergency Center, served as the keynote speaker for PHA’s Homeownership Month Celebration. Jimenez encouraged prospective homebuyers to “evaluate their readiness and take advantage of the resources available for those that are willing to put in the hard work.”
“We have seen firsthand how families that PEC has helped to make this transition also impacted the community by increasing owner-occupied properties in residential neighborhoods and increasing assets for families,” she said.
Jimenez also said that the dream of homeownership has both promise and pitfalls, but PEC hopes “families will evaluate their readiness and take advantage of the resources available for those that are willing to put in the hard work.”
The People’s Emergency Center, best known for helping the homeless, also serves the greater West Philadelphia community through its community development corporation, which manages housing and commercial real estate activities.
During the event, prospective homebuyers were strongly encouraged to sign up for housing counseling. Hiram Carmona of the City’s Office of Housing and Community Development said pre-purchase housing counseling is the first step in preventing foreclosures.
PHOTO: Linda Emanuel, a former Housing Choice Voucher resident, shared her experience of becoming a homeowner as part of PHA’s Homeownership Month Celebration. She now lives happily with her two children in their home in Southwest Philadelphia.
“Be an informed consumer. Know what you’re buying,” he said. “It’s very important to become an informed consumer. It’s very important to learn the ins-and-outs of mortgages. We have many programs in the city to help residents become savvier. They’re free to income-qualified residents and they should take advantage of them.”
OHCD offers a $500 grant to people who complete pre-purchase housing counseling before they enter into an agreement of sale. The grant program prohibits adjustable rate mortgages, no-doc and low-doc loans, and other predatory type loans. It also established debt to income ratios, so people know how much they can afford to spend on a home.
The City has supported neighborhood-based counseling for 30 years. More recently, studies completed by HUD found that housing counseling significantly improved the likelihood that homeowners remained in their homes. The studies focused on people trying to buy a home and those trying to prevent foreclosure. The findings for the pre-purchase counseling study suggests that such counseling helps people make good decisions when buying a home and helps make homeownership more sustainable.
Linda Emanuel, a former Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) recipient, couldn’t agree more.
“You want to know what you’re getting into when you buy a home,” she said. “You definitely want to make sure your credit is right. Me, personally, I came from not having such great credit to going through the counseling and making my credit better. That’s when I was able to purchase a home.”
It took Emanuel four years to fix her credit, save up for a down payment, and find a home. She now lives happily with her two children in Southwest Philadelphia.
ABLE Realty NAREB, Value Home Inspection, Inc., and Allstate Insurance also took part in the event.