Dec 17, 2022
The Bend-Redmond Habitat for Humanity doesn’t just help low-income, first-time homeowners purchase a home, it also helps them prepare to live in them.
The nonprofit teaches families how to save money, how to build credit and even how to fix a leaky faucet.
It’s all geared to helping people own a home at a low cost.
The thought behind the lessons is simple: Home ownership isn’t just an isolated purchase, it’s a lifestyle. When applying for affordable housing through Habitat for Humanity, the nonprofit requires a year’s commitment, 150 volunteer hours, a minimum of a 620 credit score and live in Deschutes County for at least a year, said DeeDee Johnson, Bend-Redmond Habitat for Humanity vice president of homeowner services.
And since the pandemic, the nonprofit has added financial mentoring as part of its requirements that include monthly financial check ins and credit counseling.
It’s a relatively new approach to helping people achieve homeownership by swaddling them in support and information with regular check ins.
Since the beginning in 1989, Habitat for Humanity has always done some kind of counseling when it came to putting people in homes, but the pandemic showed the nonprofit it needed more touch points, Johnson said.
“We found during COVID-19 that people needed more support,” Johnson said. “We created the financial mentoring program. We wanted to have a greater impact on helping families build credit, reduce debt, get them mortgage ready and have the ability to truly start saving by the time they moved into their home.”
Affordable housing is a key component to creating a strong and stable workforce in Central Oregon, where the median single family home costs about $700,000 in Bend and about $500,000 in Redmond. Typically a household earning $64,300 a year can qualify for a home costing $299,000. A mortgage payment would be no more than 30% of the monthly income, according to the city of Bend’s affordable housing website.
Everyone who applies has to qualify to meet loan and mortgage underwriter terms, said Racheal Baker city of Bend affordable housing manager.
“The homeowners have to have the financial knowledge on how to keep themselves afloat during home ownership and all the responsibilities that come with it,” Baker said. “It’s a long term commitment.”
At Habitat for Humanity, the core mission is to offer affordable housing to families in need who are willing to partner and have an ability to repay a mortgage through a payment plan, according to the Habitat for Humanity website. For a family of three that means an income of no more than $60,750 at the time of application, Johnson said.
Applicants must have a minimum credit score of 620 out of 850.
The nonprofit holds how-to trainings and provides credit worthiness counseling with the help of a $10,000 grant from Eagle Wealth Management, a Bend business. In the past, the company supported Habitat for Humanity’s program by paying for three how-to workshops that included a tool bucket with tools for new homeowners, Johnson said. About 25 families have been through the financial mentoring program to purchase their home, she said.
Since it began, Bend-Redmond Habitat for Humanity has helped 210 families with homeownership. Each year it builds and sells about 10-15 homes and provides access to mortgages that are affordable.
So far in 2022, 45 people have applied for a home with the nonprofit, Johnson said. Those applicants translated into 12 new homeowners, Johnson said. Work is being completed on an eight-unit townhome project on Watercress Way, she said.
“The families needed more support,” Johnson said. “Knowing we have such a great community of volunteers that have been business owners, homeowners, (people with) financial backgrounds, we created the financial mentoring program. In the 12 years with Habitat I have seen more significant positive change by having regular check ins with a financial coach.”
Tracking spending is important to make changes and be accountable. It’s also important and vital to success to meet families where they are in terms of giving them the tools to be the best version of themselves, Johnson said.
That’s why supporting the how-to training at the Bend DIY center on Ninth Street is useful to first-time homebuyers, said Chad Staskal, Eagle Wealth Management managing partner CEO.
“We provide financial support to help purchase the tool kits for the new homeowners, pay for the homeownership workshops at the DIYCave,” Staskal said. “We’re just behind the scenes resources supporting them in the amazing work they do.”