The American Dream and homeownership often go hand in hand. But there are a host of potential barriers to realizing this dream for many people. Rob Evans, Vice President of Homeowner & Community Development at Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership (INHP), says, “Credit is the most obvious [barrier], and lack of down payment, but fear is really that third one that you don’t think of very often … that’s a very powerful barrier.”
When the economy took a nosedive, these barriers loomed higher, seemingly more insurmountable than ever. Rob says, “We’ve seen a lot of people since about 2010 that just weren’t quite sure if they could really do this homeownership thing. They saw what friends and family went through and so a part of our role really is that reassuring voice to them that with proper preparation and education, not only is [homeownership] achievable, but sustainable.”
While the Legal Clinic’s Consumer Justice Program assists homeowners who find themselves underwater or struggling with their mortgage payment, we refer those clients who are considering homeownership to our trusted partner, INHP. Rob describes their work as “foreclosure prevention on the front side.” Their approach is largely two-tiered, Rob explains. “If [a client is] already in their home, how can we help make sure they have resources to sustain homeownership? And if they’re looking to buy their home, how can we provide them with the tools and knowledge to be educated homebuyers who eventually become educated homeowners and really sustain that homeownership for the long haul?”
For instance, a low-income senior citizen whose furnace goes out in the dead of winter can go to INHP to see if they’re eligible for a zero-interest, 30-year, fixed-rate, deferred loan to get the repair done. Rob says, “They make no payments until the 30 years is up or until the title transfers. And all we ask for at that time is the principal back so we can put that money into another loan for another family.” In some situations, INHP may even be able to provide a homeowner with a grant for such an emergency.
Broken furnaces or a leaky roof are typical repairs for INHP, but their assistance goes beyond these standard scenarios. Recently, a woman who uses a wheelchair and who was unable to go down to her own basement to do her laundry contacted INHP, inquiring about their accessibility programs. By working together, the woman was able to have a chair lift installed in her home. Rob still recalls her thank you note and he says of the experience, “You realize this person can now do their own laundry and they are self-sufficient again. That reminds you why you’re doing what you do.”
On the other side of their services, INHP’s Homeownership Advising Program takes clients through a homebuyer’s assessment to determine if they qualify immediately or if there are certain barriers preventing them from making the transition to homeownership. The program can last up to 24 months if necessary and, during that time, counselors work one-on-one with clients to review their income and credit, among other things. They also take clients through various education programs, like Dollars & Sense. Rob says, “You can’t really successfully move through this process unless you understand the basics of budgeting and goal-setting. You’ve got to know how to make your money work for you.” Once they have completed the Homeownership Advising Program, clients are equipped to move forward with a clear and solid plan.
The various kinds of financial and educational assistance available through INHP are many and they are tailored to each specific client. But everything they do—every service they provide—can be distilled down to one essential purpose. Rachel Faulkner, Director of Marketing & Communications, puts it simply: “We help provide people with opportunities for creating their own refuge.”
To learn more about INHP’s services: www.inhp.org
To get involved: http://give.inhp.org/volunteer/
To support: http://give.inhp.org/donate-2/