Fire tragedy turned into home ownership

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This past November, a single mother with two children was forced out of her row house in Rankin by a devastating fire. Her home was one of 10 on Mound Street that was damaged by flames and smoke.

Frantic for assistance, she contacted long-time member of the Rankin Community Development Corporation, Bill Pfoff, who suggested she call the Mon Valley Initiative.

NewHomeOwner
NEW HOME OWNER—Deirdre Stanley and her daughters Jayla, 14, and Mya, 9, in front of their new Mon Valley Initiative house in North Braddock.

“At the time, I was living with relatives and was looking for just a rental property or anything to get a roof over my family’s head,” said Deirdre Stanley, who works as a customer service team leader for UPMC Presbyterian in Shadyside. “I wasn’t thinking about buying a new house. I didn’t see that as part of my future.”

Now for Stanley, homeownership is more than just something to wonder about. Since April 15, she and her family have been living in their own home.

Stanley’s newly-constructed three-bedroom house is one of several in a neighborhood stabilization program in North Braddock that was led through the efforts of North Braddock Cares Inc., MVI, Allegheny County Economic Development, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and the Federal Home Loan Bank. The MVI has built or refurbished hundreds of such homes throughout the Mon Valley, and has helped change formerly blighted areas into livable tax generating neighborhoods.

Made up of 10 different community development corporations that are working together to revitalize the Mon Valley, the MVI provides services that include real estate development. Pfoff’s involvement with the Rankin Community Development Corp., as part of the MVI coalition, made him aware of the new properties that were going up in North Braddock. Hoping to link a good buyer to the effort, he referred Stanley to MVI’s housing counselor, Mike Mauer.

Certified and funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, MVI’s Housing Counseling Program has assisted nearly 800 families into their first homes over the last seven years. The program offers group classes that teach general information regarding the mortgage process, as well as individual pre-purchase housing counseling.

As MVI’s housing counselor, Mauer reviews each client’s credit report as well as their income and ratios—much in the same way a mortgage banker does. He also educates clients about the best mortgage products that are available to them.

“I’m also there to assist clients through the homeownership process and to answer any questions,” said Mauer.

According to Mauer, who holds a NeighborWorks® certification in housing counseling, Stanley was surprised that she’d be able to qualify for a mortgage pre-approval during their first meeting.

“Unless they’re bankers, few of my clients know what the requirements are to get a decent mortgage before they walk in the door,” said Mauer. “The most valuable thing we provide here is the information people need to help unlock the door of their new home.”

Following her counselor’s advice, Stanley filed an application for a mortgage through a participating lender with the PHFA. As she met the right criteria, she not only qualified for a loan to purchase her home, but also received down payment and closing cost assistance. Four months after her first visit to MVI—and in the same month as her birthday—Stanley signed the papers to purchase her new home.

“It was the best birthday present I’ve ever given myself,” she said.

Like Stanley, future homeowners are welcome to schedule individual appointments with MVI’s housing counselor. Also, MVI will host a free pre-purchase housing workshop June 25. at 305 East 8th Ave in Homestead.

All participants who successfully complete this U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development curriculum will receive a certificate which is required to obtain community development mortgage loans from local lenders.

There is no requirement for any potential homeowner to purchase an MVI home to participate in the MVI Housing Counseling Program. For more information, call MVI’s housing counselor at 412-464-4000 x 4008 or visit http://www.monvalleyinitiative.com.

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