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homeownership

Growing a Community - One Family at a Time in Huron, S.D.

There are stark differences between Huron, South Dakota, and the Thailand Refugee Camp where the Maung Family started their journey. There are cultural differences, language barriers, and vast contrasts between the way people live and work in these two pinpoints on opposite sides of the globe. The Maung family journeyed from Thailand and have been welcomed into the community of Huron, South Dakota. They are enjoying the American culture and are adjusting well to life in their new community.

It takes strong community partners working together to create thriving communities and improve the quality of life in rural areas. Even though the Maung family has limited knowledge of the English language, that barrier did not prevent them from pursuing the American dream of homeownership through USDA. They worked with a language interpreter to engage several partners that worked together to assist with the application process of becoming new homeowners.

Helping a Growing Family Build Their Own Home

As I watched Matthew McLane’s children play in the front yard of their home, I could tell how much this family loved being homeowners.  Matthew and Candice McLane became first time homebuyers through the Agency’s Mutual Self-Help Program in 2012.  The couple, and their two daughters, had been living in an apartment prior to building their home through the Self-Help Housing Program.  Now the couple has three children, and one more on the way this fall – and the house is filled with love and joy as the family prepares for the arrival of its newest member.

Listening to Matthew describe the self-help process, you can tell how much pride he has in his home.  He describes putting his sweat, blood and tears into the home, but loving every minute of it.  From learning how to hang drywall, to laying flooring or installing shingles, it was all new experiences and skills that Matthew learned.  When repairs are needed to the home now, Matthew is able to do the home maintenance and repairs himself.

Reflecting on the American Dream

Last month, I had the privilege of witnessing the American dream come to life for a Rockingham, Virginia family who has just purchased and built their first home with the help of a USDA Rural Development (RD) direct low-interest loan. It was an honor to help Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez, Virginia Rural Development employees and local officials welcome Alias and Ansam Khader and their three children to their newly constructed home, which we did via a key presentation ceremony on the family’s new front porch.

Prior to the ceremony, I had the opportunity to spend time with the Khaders as they graciously took me and others on a tour of the house. They shared with us stories of their journey to this special day and visions of their bright future. I quickly learned that the Khaders were a remarkable family, having overcome extraordinary circumstances.

Building Communities Together Nationwide

Owning a home opens up a world of opportunities. A home is an asset that helps families finance education or a business. A home could be the reason you learn how to use a power drill, or the reason you start your first garden. Homeownership helps people become more financially literate all while connecting with their community in ways they may have never connected before.

Now that another Homeownership Month has come and gone, I would like to reflect on the strides the Obama Administration has made toward truly accessible rural homeownership for all. Since 2009 USDA Rural Development has made investments in affordable homeownership opportunities in 3,200 U.S. counties. These investments have benefitted more than 1 million people across the country.

Rebuilding Lives: Celebrating Homeownership Month

Five years ago, Christy Carr seemed like a long shot as a future homeowner.  She was a newly divorced, unemployed mom of five, and her credit score was in the 300’s. The home she shared with her children had no heat, no electricity and no running water. A neighbor let Christy run an extension cord to his garage outlet just so that the family could keep the lights on. Since they had no car and only a cooler to keep their food cold, they walked to the store three times a day.

In order to rebuild her life, Christy had to find work and clean up her credit score.  After many interviews, Christy was offered a good job at a marketing company. She was able to move into an apartment but it was too small to house all of her children, and her older sons had to stay with another family member. At the same time, Christy brought her student loans out of default and paid off old marital debts. After 18 months, her credit score had risen by 300 points, and she was able to open a credit card secured through her bank.

Housing is Opportunity, Housing is Jobs

 

When one thinks about home, they often think about warm meals on the dinner table, cozying up on the couch, painting the nursery, or even building equity in a place one calls their own. When I think housing- especially new housing: I also think opportunity; I think jobs.

Jobs come from laying foundations, installing windows, and making sure faucets pour water and lights shine bright. Most importantly, jobs go home at the end of the shift, and gather at that dinner table knowing local economies are improving. We have had 75 straight months of private-sector job growth in America, and the housing sector has played its part.

High Five Series: Rural America is Home for the Holidays

Oh, there’s nooooo place like hooooome for the holidays… Every time I hear that song I get an extra spring in my step knowing that I work for an organization that helped more than 160,000 families afford to buy, rent, or repair their homes this year. That’s 160,000 families in rural America that are home for the Holidays.

This year, 50 New Hampshire families living in one of our rental housing facilities were on the verge of losing their homes, but because of local community action groups, and my amazing team of affordable rural housing professionals, USDA Rural Development is able to continue to provide rental assistance to 50 Granite State families for the next 30 years.  Last month, we were able to close a deal that will keep these 50 families, and an additional 50 elderly and disabled tenants in a neighboring affordable housing community in their homes affordably for the next 30 years.

A Special Invitation from Deputy Secretary to Join a Google+ Hangout on Veteran Farmers

On Monday, I had the opportunity to meet with several inspiring Service members and launch an expanded collaboration between USDA and the Department of Defense at a Transition Assistance Program class hosted at the Pentagon. This collaboration will integrate agriculture into the career training and counseling programs Service members receive as they transition out of the military. Information about USDA resources and programs will now reach 200,000 transitioning Service members every year.

It’s exciting to see veterans — many of whom come from rural communities — drawn back to the land, and USDA is here to provide support for military veterans and their families, from nutrition assistance to rural rental housing and homeownership opportunities. In conjunction with Monday’s announcement, USDA also launched a new website, www.usda.gov/veterans. This site is specifically designed to educate veterans about USDA programs and the support available for all active duty military and veterans.

Natural Building - of Homes and Partnerships in Utah

Though National Homeownership Month has ended, the stories of people in rural America achieving that American dream never do. Last month I had the good fortune to visit the homes of two such people in Moab, Utah: Heather Gallagher and Lynn Chenard.

Both women live and work in the town of Moab, Utah, adjacent to Arches National Park. They were drawn there by many of the same things that call to me: rock climbing, mountain biking, river rafting, and wilderness exploration. The one thing that might have forced them out, however, is the community’s lack of affordable housing and limited seasonal work.

Families Achieve the Dream of Homeownership Working Together

Allie Lane was full of excitement and activity. On this short street in the small town of Luling in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, I was proud to celebrate National Homeownership Month by breaking ground for a new home.

I humbly watched as Jacqueline Campbell, Kimberly Dunn, and Paulette Alexander eagerly picked out shovels to participate in the symbolic dirt toss at the site cleared for construction of the next Self-Help home on Allie Lane. They are all currently renting and ready to roll up their sleeves and go to work to build a better future together for their families.