Breaking Down Barriers to Homeownership
Cerlina and her husband, Jose, will be the first to tell you that the path to homeownership is no easy feat. Add on searching for a home during the 2008 economic crisis as undocumented immigrants. “We made sure we had our long-term financial goals in place to own a home,” explains Cerlina. “We started saving, and we started to build our credit card report to have credit history. We finally went to a local mortgage company and explained that we were taking steps to one day own a home, but we were denied because we did not have socials.” Nothing seemed possible, but they persisted.
“We learned a lot — the requirements to qualify, the process, the timing. It wasn’t easy, but here we are, thank God!”
— Cerlina and Jose, homeowners
In 2017, opportunity began to take shape. With assistance from New Brunswick Tomorrow (NBT), a local community-based organization and long-time NJCC partner, Cerlina and Jose were connected to NJCC’s Address Yourself™ Program. Through the ITIN Program, undocumented low-to-moderate-income families like Cerlina and Jose’s are provided with one-on-one counseling and financial assistance that allow them to qualify for a mortgage at an affordable interest rate.
Cerlina and Jose now have a home to call their own. They’re proud of the life they’ve built here. The ITIN Program equipped Cerlina and her husband with the financial building blocks of homeownership. “We learned a lot — the requirements to qualify, the process, the timing. It wasn’t easy, but here we are, thank God!” Cerlina wants everyone to know that through persistence, economic stability for many immigrant communities is possible. She’s now helping others to do the same as a community ambassador with NBT’s Healthy Housing program. “There’s something that I tell people that ask me how [we bought a home],” says Cerlina. “I ask them, ‘How long have you lived in this country?’ Most people have been living here for nine or ten years or more. I say, ‘Look, you’ve already paid the mortgage to the owner!’ … I tell them, ‘Look, if you don’t believe me, you can see what I’ve done.’”