Low-Income Renters Become Homeowners

Residents in low-income housing could be eligible for homeownership through a Harris County program. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson has more on how one Houston woman was able to achieve her dream of buying her own home.

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The first word that comes to mind when you meet Betty Brown is bustling. She bustles about non-stop, straightening house, sweeping floors and cleaning the kitchen. It's hard to get her to sit down for even five minutes. But this is her new home, after all. A place she thought she'd never be able to own.

"I always wanted to be a homeowner. I always wanted to own my own home, but I knew that I wasn't able to without the help of the choice voucher."

The choice voucher is a componant of Harris County's Independence Program. Harris County Housing Authority Development Director Paula Sullivan says the program helps low-income renters who are in Section-8 housing become self-sufficient.

"We take what we used to pay their landlord on our Section-8 voucher program and we turn around and give it to their house note instead of the rental note. And now they are building equity in a property and building wealth for themselves opposed to just paying rent."

So instead of paying a landlord, the county provides Section-8 subsidized vouchers to help with the downpayment and closing costs for the new home. They assess each family's income on an annual basis to determine if mortgage payment assistance is necessary. Brown, who is caretaker for her disabled husband and is disabled herself, pays more than half of her mortgage note, and the county helps with the rest.

"It's just such a good feeling to be able to own your own home, instead of you know paying rent. You don't mind if it's a possibility of you owning it, but if it's not then it's just you're wasting money. And my husband also always wanted to own a home so this is actually both of our dreams come true."

About five families a year end up going through the Harris County Independence program. They have to meet certain income and credit rating requirements, as well as go through home ownership workshops and financial counseling. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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