By Teresa Bryce Bazemore
President and CEO
Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco
LONG BEACH, CA – Doris Ealy, 56, never felt comfortable renting a room under someone else’s roof. The single mother of four children and grandmother to four didn’t like cooking in a shared kitchen or how her landlord insisted on keeping the windows shut, causing a dank smell to waft in the air. Doris especially didn’t appreciate hearing bickering late into the evening, even though her housemates knew she worked the night shift.
For nearly two decades, Doris has had a stable job at a distribution center with a well-known delivery service. But her uncertain housing situation was an ongoing source of stress. Then things started to truly unravel when the duplex owned by a relative where she rented a room was sold to an investor. Soon she heard a dreaded knock on her door: the new property manager was there to ask for her keys.
“I headed to the bus stop, and sitting there, I just started crying,” Doris recalls. She “was feeling damned-near homeless,” as she prepared to make yet another move to yet another rented room in someone else’s home.
At that point, Doris decided it was time to make a big change.
“Growing up my dad would say to me, ‘You ain’t grown until you have your own home’,” Doris recalled. “I didn’t want to rent a room from someone else anymore.” She wanted her own place where she could cook in her own kitchen and feel comfortable spending time at home.
Doris’ aspirations of having a home of her own began to come into reach when she was connected with a homeownership counseling service. Out of frustration after her latest move, Doris had shared her housing woes with her sister, who had heard good things about Neighborhood Housing Services of Los Angeles County (NHS), a nonprofit housing counseling agency (HCA) that specializes in helping people prepare for homeownership. She urged Doris to call them.
For a $149 fee, Doris enrolled in NHS’ self-paced online homebuyer education program. The course, which NHS offers to people across the economic spectrum, opens doors to getting a mortgage pre-approval and accessing special downpayment assistance programs. Through the course, Doris was taught how appraisals and escrow accounts work, got tips for how to work with real estate professionals when shopping for a home, and learned things every homeowner ought to know about how to plan for the costs of home maintenance and repairs.
“NHS educated me step-by-step on how to become a homeowner,” said Doris. “Once I got my homebuyer education program certificate of completion, I was on a roll.” NHS counselors continued to work with Doris after she completed the homebuyer course, helping her monitor her credit score and establish a personal budget to save for her downpayment, and making sure that she had all the paperwork she needed to apply for a mortgage loan available and organized.
About six months after Doris started working with NHS, her homeownership counseling specialist “ran the numbers” that showed Doris would be pre-approved for a mortgage from four different lenders. Getting the pre-approvals was an important achievement for Doris. But in a high-cost housing market like Southern California, coming up with a downpayment large enough to make her mortgage payments affordable over the long-term was yet another challenge.
NHS saw that Doris could be eligible for a matching grant from FHLBank San Francisco’s WISH first-time homebuyer program, which is designed to help aspiring homeowners overcome one of the biggest barriers to achieving their dream and building wealth. The program matches $4 for every $1 a low- to moderate-income homebuyer contributes for downpayment and closing costs.
WISH grants are delivered by the Bank’s member financial institutions. Member Luther Burbank Savings, which approved Doris for her mortgage, has participated in the program since 2013, delivering nearly $1.7 million to 99 homebuyers in their local communities.
Doris was thrilled to receive a call from a Luther Burbank Savings loan officer congratulating her on receiving the mortgage pre-approval and confirming her eligibility for a WISH grant. Doris was able to put enough money down from her retirement and other savings to receive a $22,000 WISH grant, which would significantly reduce her monthly mortgage payments.
“A WISH grant oftentimes is the difference between homeownership being just a dream rather than a reality,” said Simone Lagomarsino, president and CEO at Luther Burbank Savings and chair of FHLBank San Francisco’s board of directors. “We are so happy we were able to finance the mortgage for Ms. Ealy, provide an additional $5,100 in support through Luther Burbank Savings’ own grant program, and award the WISH grant that helped Ms. Ealy obtain a place that she can now call home, where she feels safe.”
Doris closed on her one-bedroom condominium in Long Beach, California in May of 2022.
“I’m happy now,” she says. “It feels good to have a key to turn, and be at home. It gives me peace of mind, and I love it.”