Firms aim to boost homeownership
Great Falls Tribune (Montana; IDA)
By: Briana Wipf
November 9, 2012
Next spring or summer, Jennifer and Jason Triplett hope to purchase their first home. It's been a long road for the Tripletts, who have one 6-year-old son, Steven, and are expecting another baby next year.
Several years ago, a string of unexpected medical bills for Steven piled up. The Tripletts opted to declare Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
"We got more bills than we expected and just got overwhelmed," Jennifer Triplett said.
The Tripletts heard about the Individual Development Account program offered by NeighborWorks Great Falls that helps people save money for a down payment for a home. Last April, they began working toward saving $1,000, which will be matched by NeighborWorks with $4,000 funded by a federal grant and individual donors. Since April, they have been working with an adviser at NeighborWorks to help them save and budget.
"We have regular bills, and it's hard to come up with a down payment off the bat, so to have them help us save, it's amazing," Triplett said.
Now, there is more to the program. On Thursday, NeighborWorks and Davidson Cos. launched the Match and Mentor Program, in which low-income families or individuals are matched with financial mentors who can help them make smart fiscal decisions.
Davidson employees can provide funds, matched by the company up to $750, or become a mentor to one of the families, offering them guidance on the best way to utilize their assets.
Sean Sturges, director of financial planning at DA Davidson & Co., is involved in that program, contributing funds to first-time homebuyers. He said he may become a financial mentor later.
"This really goes hand-in-hand with what Davidson does in the community," Sturges said.
Sheila Rice, executive director of NeighborWorks Great Falls, said 54 homebuyers have completed the IDA program, which also includes taking homebuyers' classes that cover information on budgeting and the lending and title insurance process.
The Match and Mentor program has been on Rice's wish-list for a while, and she's excited it has finally come to fruition. Partnering with a financial company is the perfect match, she said.
"The idea is to help low-income families gain assets for the long-term," Rice said. Meeting with a financial expert at Davidson Cos. will help the families do that.
Triplett said she and her husband are saving receipts to help them budget, something they had never done before. She hopes they are matched with a mentor soon to give them even more guidance.
"You don't realize what you spend money on unless you see it on paper," she said.
Armed with tools and allies, the Tripletts are on their way to financial stability and homeownership.
"I just want a stable home for my children," Triplett said. "We want to buy a home for our kids that we'll be in for the rest of our lives."
Steven often asks to have a swing set, but that isn't an option in their small apartment. Owning a home would mean giving Steven that swing set, maybe even a dog or a tree house.
Rice and Sturges agree homeownership isn't just a boon for the owners, it is a boon for the entire community.
Rice said homeowners are more likely to be involved in the community and to vote. Their children are more likely to graduate high school and are less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system.
Sturges pointed out communities with high rates of homeownership are more stable and the families living there have a higher degree of success.
"We're building the foundation of the community we all live in," he said.
Sturges, who owns his own home, also remembers the excitement and emotion that goes along with signing closing papers. He wants to see other families experience that, too.
"It's exciting. You feel like a big kid, a grownup," Triplett said of the prospect of homeownership. "We have come so far."
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