By Sonja Whitemon
Nothing represents the American Dream more than homeownership. Nearly 60 percent of Americans own their homes, but the dream of homeownership is becoming harder to achieve. Down payments, credit scores and monthly payments can be a challenge for anyone but especially for those with low incomes. Charlotte is one of the fastest growing cities in the country with a steady increase in housing prices.
Inlivian, which was formerly known as the Charlotte Housing Authority, has created the Destination Homeownership Program to give its clients support through the steps required to qualify for mortgage loans. The program provides financial counseling and education with the goal of helping individuals break the cycle of poverty through homeownership.
Erica McNair is one of Destination Homeownership’s success stories.
McNair had been a part of the Section 8 program for many years and wanted to enroll in self-sufficiency programs that were offered to help her purchase her first home. She initially tried to purchase a home with her Section 8 housing voucher in Georgia. Although she was approved for a mortgage, the tight, highly competitive real estate market in the area made it almost impossible to finalize a purchase. She ultimately switched her voucher to Charlotte and entered Inlivian’s Destination Home Ownership Program.
McNair said, “It was a six-week course that you needed to take, and they taught all of the processes involved with buying a house. Realtors came and talked to us, they also taught us about credit and things like that.”
After completing the Destination Homeownership Program, credit worthiness became one of her biggest challenges.
“It took me two years to clean up my credit. The program gave me $1,000 towards cleaning up my credit,” McNair said. “I cleaned everything off of my credit. There was nothing in collections, and now I have companies offering me credit.
In the end, with financial support the program found to assist with the down payment and closing costs and, she was approved for a $250,000 mortgage and closed on her three-bedroom home in October 2022.
“Our goal is to empower, educate and equip our residents with the knowledge that they need to be able to obtain and maintain um safe, decent and affordable housing,” said Shannon Burns, Destination Homeownership program manager.
“Our goal is to also not just, help them with those tangible benefits, but also the social construct of it. There are studies that show that the educational benefits for children are increased for individuals who are in stable housing or stable housing communities,” Burns added.
“There’s also the fact that it can be an effective way for them to build wealth through the appreciation of home values. Our program is geared toward helping individuals break the cycle of poverty through home ownership,” she said, “That is our main goal, and we do that through the education and one-on-one counseling. We offer financial fitness workshops as well.”
Inlivian clients who qualify for the program are either working full time or have been working for at least two years. They have some type of income that would put them in a position to be able to potentially qualify for a mortgage from the lender because, although the program supports them through the home buying process, they still have to go through the same process that anyone else would have to go through to obtain the mortgage loan.
Erica McNair said Destination Homeownership has turned into a phenomenal program and has changed her life. Not only does she have the pride of homeownership, she also said it has opened financial doors for her. She added, “I have something to leave my family.”