November 6, 2014

New homeowner: ‘This is a good feeling’

Down payment assistance grants from Wells Fargo have helped more than 8,000 people achieve a goal many thought was unattainable: owning a home.

“Just knowing that this is ours . . . this is a good feeling.”

That’s what Valerie Guillet, a New Orleans single mom, says about her newly purchased home.

Down payment assistance grants help single mom become a homeowner
Valerie Guillet and her daughter Sophie at their new home.

She had a difficult time finding an affordable home to rent in the years following Hurricane Katrina, but today, she is one of more than 8,000 people to achieve homeownership with the help of Wells Fargo’s NeighborhoodLIFT® and CityLIFT® programs.

A collaboration between Wells Fargo, the nonprofit NeighborWorks America, and the nonprofit’s local affiliates, the LIFT programs aim to help stabilize neighborhoods deeply affected by foreclosures. Since 2012, the programs have provided $173.9 million in down payment assistance to those in 30 metropolitan areas.

In most cities, approved applicants can receive $15,000 in down payment assistance grants, though in some cities the grant may be more. In return, the potential homeowners must complete homebuyer education and pre-purchase counseling, and their income must not exceed 120 percent of the median income in their city. They must also commit to remain in their home for at least five years. “We believe that can play a crucial role in helping to stabilize neighborhoods that have struggled with foreclosures,” says Wells Fargo’s Kim Smith-Moore.

In selecting cities for the NeighborhoodLIFT program, Wells Fargo uses research that includes data about available properties as well as historic foreclosure rates. Smith-Moore says once a city is selected, the company works with government officials and local nonprofits to zero in on specific neighborhoods.

Two-day events are held in every NeighborhoodLIFT city with a goal of educating the attendees about homeownership, home-financing options, and other topics. “It’s really about setting our attendees up for success,” says Smith-Moore.