SRHA laying foundation for homeowners; summit provides valuable information

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 30, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

The U.S. Census reports that an ever-increasing two-thirds of the nation’s households are homeowners. Throughout the month of June, National Homeownership Month, organizations like the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority took time to highlight ongoing efforts to help local residents buy their first house.

Also on the housing front in Suffolk, Habitat for Humanity Inc. broke ground on its 15th home in the city, celebrating another victory in the group’s campaign to provide safe, decent and affordable homeownership opportunities.

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To aid in facilitating increased rates of homeownership locally, the SRHA recently hosted its fifth Homeownership Summit at its headquarters on Pinner St. More than 65 area residents attended well-executed workshops, which equipped them with valuable information to make purchasing a home less painful.

Subjects covered included everything a prospective homebuyer would encounter on the road to homeownership, including budgeting, credit scores, choosing a home, home inspections, and closings. Guest presenters included Melissa Christy, mortgage lending officer with BB&T bank; Charles Peek, Director of Housing and Community Development, Urban League of Hampton Roads; Julius Ceasar Del Campo, a realtor with Prudential Deckor Realty, and Stan L. Thompson, a home mortgage consultant, of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Inc.

Del Campo encouraged residents to be wise in assuming their first mortgage, not biting off too much the first time around. When the dust settles, he stressed, &uot;You guys are responsible for the mortgage. Use this as a stepping stone for the next one.&uot;

Residents also took away many strong messages about finances and credit, the foundation for obtaining a mortgage. Peek encouraged attendees to set up appointments with budget and credit counselors to find out how they can enhance their credit worthiness, if needed.

Lorraine Ward, 39, a Section 8 of Suffolk, is house shopping with her fiance. She said she thoroughly enjoyed the summit and, &uot;It gave me more of an idea of the questions to ask rather than just looking at what the house looks like. I’m usually very quiet, but now I’ll be asking away. My fiance will be asking `How do you know that?’&uot;

Pandora Jackson, 41, is a single parent, who is also a Section 8 resident. She also believes she walked away from the summit with information that she ordinarily would not have obtained. &uot;I feel that I’ve learned a lot, especially all the credit information.&uot;

In 1997, the first housing summit was held as a test to determine if there was local interest, explained SRHA Executive Director Clarissa E. McAdoo. &uot;There was overwhelming interest which gave us a jump start to having monthly homeownership classes,&uot; she added.

McAdoo was very excited about the June 7 turnout, which obviously indicates that there continues to be a demand for the helpful information. Attendees represented a cross-section of public housing and Section 8 residents, and the general public. At least three public housing residents have gone on to become homeowners with the guidance of the housing authority. The SRHA has also placed 10 first-time buyers in homes in the Orlando community, where the agency worked in partnership with the city to rehabilitate the neighborhood with new homes.

In partnership with Suffolk Habitat for Humanity, the SRHA donated property for the construction of three additional homes in Orlando. The trend was started in the Saratoga community where the SRHA also provided land for first-time homeownership opportunities in collaboration with Suffolk Habitat.

The SRHA uses the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) homeownership model in conducting the homeownership seminars, and all staff are certified by the state entity.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Congress and Millard Fuller, founder and president of Habitat for Humanity, launched national Homeownership Month. Assisting in helping low and moderate income Americans become homeowners continues to be a major push by President Bush.