Finding a Forever Home
Through the NeighborhoodLIFT® Program, participants are provided with a unique opportunity to build wealth and live in a safe, stable and affordable home. Stephanie Yanes always dreamed about having her own place to call home. Born to immigrants from El Salvador, Stephanie had been working at a nonprofit and renting an apartment in Queens, New York—and a future without a roommate seemed out of reach. “The American dream has always been instilled in me,” says Stephanie. “But I am a single woman, and I didn’t think that homeownership was a possibility on my own. I always thought I had to wait for a wedding first.”
“I couldn’t have been a homeowner without NJCC. It was the key I needed.”
– Stephanie Yanes, NeighhorhoodLIFT program participant
Still, she saved for a down payment and turned her sights to New Jersey, where the cost of living was more comfortable for her. “When I started the homebuying process, I was working with a real estate agent and a lawyer who was referred to me,” Stephanie says. “I put down a deposit on a house, but it fell through when it didn’t appraise.” The lawyer held on to the deposit in escrow—but when she finally found a new home and was ready to use that money, he disappeared. “In the end, I lost $4,000. It may not seem like a lot, but for me, it was everything,” says Stephanie. Starting at a deficit, Stephanie wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to find her home. But she pushed ahead with the house hunting process and, after finding a house, things started to get back on track.
This time, Stephanie was wiser about the mortgage process, and thought she had the best deal she could get. That’s when fate stepped in. “The universe aligned and I set up a coffee meeting with a loan officer,” says Stephanie. “He asked me questions about my loan, my interest rate and all the details. Then he told me about a program that he thought might be a better fit.” He was right—and, in no time, Stephanie was in talks with a lender that put her in touch with NJCC and the NeighborhoodLIFT® Program. The initiative provides eligible homebuyers with $20,000 in down payment assistance for qualified properties, and requires homebuyer education to prepare applicants for managing the financial responsibilities of homeownership. “One thing I didn’t realize was the financial stress that comes after you close,” Stephanie says. “True responsibility starts setting in once you become a homeowner. NJCC helped me go into homeownership without having my bank account completely depleted and set me up for success.” The process was quick and easy, and Stephanie’s long journey toward homeownership came to its successful conclusion in just six weeks. “To me, it was a foot in the door to financial freedom,” says Stephanie. “I couldn’t have been a homeowner without NJCC. It was the key I needed.”
Our work does not end there. We go one step further. After ten years, families will be given the opportunity to purchase their homes, creating a clear pathway to intergenerational mobility. Family Village is just one way we are expanding our investments to ensure we build stronger foundations for communities of color.
In 2019, New Jersey Community Capital partnered with Wells Fargo and NeighborWorks® America to bring the national NeighborhoodLIFT® Program to New Jersey to provide down payment assistance grants to families and individuals purchasing a home in Essex County.
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