A new homeowner realizes her dream|Graduates from local homeownership program

Published 8:13 pm Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daily News Correspondent

Patrese Keyes is about to get the keys to her future.
“I’m just excited, overwhelmed, glad to have the opportunity,” she said.
Keyes is excited because she recently graduated from a homeownership program offered by the nonprofit Washington Housing Inc.
WHI works in cooperation with the Washington Housing Authority. The housing authority is carrying out a mandate to move more people from public housing and rental-assistance units into homes of their own.
Keyes, who receives financial assistance with her rent through the federal Housing Voucher Program, or Section 8, rents a privately owned dwelling.
But public housing — the kind of government-owned complexes once common throughout the country — is gradually declining as an option for people in need, acknowledged one local housing official who praised WHI’s program.
“Instead of our families being complacent and being idle and depending on the system, we have to afford them the tools to get off the system,” said Shanetta Moye, director of special programs for the housing authority.
WHI partners with a number of groups, including the city of Washington, related Gina Amaxopulos, a housing specialist with WHI.
WHI’s Individual Development Accounts, or IDA program, from which Keyes graduated, is open to all Beaufort County residents who meet the income requirements, according to Amaxopulos.
The recession has probably doubled the number of people seeking credit counseling through the nonprofit, she said, adding that starting in January, WHI began dealing with a “huge influx” of people in need of preforeclosure advice.
Participation in the IDA program is a guarantee of home financing because recipients won’t graduate until they’re ready, Amaxopulos advised.
And these are quality loans, she iterated. Speaking of the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, she added, “We do not do sub-prime mortgages.”
IDA participants must be first-time home buyers, she said. They must also be able to save $1,000 toward the purchase of their new homes.
Like the 25 enrollees currently working their way through the program, Keyes was required to go through intensive education.
Her tasks included working one-on-one with a certified housing counselor, taking financial literacy classes, improving credit scores and passing a budget-management course.
The courses built upon Keyes’ confidence, the homeowner related, adding that she came to believe she could save money for a home and carry out the responsibilities of owning a home.
“Gina made me feel that I could afford it,” she said.
“The IDA Program combines classes on how to manage your family finances with a program of matched savings,” reads an IDA brochure. “Participants attend a pre-homeownership education course and make regular deposits (minimum of $50 per month, maximum $200 per month up to $1,000) into a savings account. For every dollar you save, we will match it up to $4.00. At the end of the savings period (minimum 6 months, maximum 12 months), the $5,000 can be used as a down payment, to pay closing costs, or to buy points to lower your interest rate on a new home purchase.”
If all goes as planned, Keyes will receive the keys to her new home Monday.
Along with her two sons — Derrick, 12, and Darius, 10 — Keyes is “very excited” about moving into her three-bedroom, two-bath house.
She said her sons look forward to having their own yard, adding that her youngest wants a swimming pool and a trampoline.
“I told him we’d have to work on that,” she said.