Sugar Creek Bend helps renters reach goal of homeownership

  |     |   Eastern Iowa News

After her daughter Isadora was born last November, Andrea Parker says she felt like her family was on a roll.  She and her husband decided it was time to take action on their goal of purchasing a home of their own.  They reached their goal and moved in last month.

As residents of Sugar Creek Bend, a property Community Housing Initiatives manages in Cedar Rapids, Parker and her family successfully met the requirements of a unique “homeownership incubator” program for residents in that community.  As a result, Parker earned substantial down payment assistance toward her new home.

“We loved living at Sugar Creek but there’s a different feeling when it comes to owning your own home.  It’s just a pride that you have,” Parker said.

Helping more families feel that pride in homeownership is the main point of Sugar Creek Bend, a  group of 20 three bedroom homes that opened in 2011 in a neighborhood intermixed with owner-occupied homes.

Residents at Sugar Creek Bend get a taste of homeownership by taking on basic home maintenance, like lawn care, snow removal, and common repairs.

“The maintenance part didn’t really bother me because it’s such a new home,” Parker said.  “[Sugar Creek] is probably the nicest place I’ve ever lived outside of my parents’ house – it was easy, it was clean it was nice; I had everything I needed.”

Another element of the homeownership incubator program is participating in financial advising provided by a HUD-certified training provider.  Most Sugar Creek residents seek that training from Horizons, a local Cedar Rapids nonprofit that has been providing financial wellness trainingto the community since 1983.

Adriane Moline, financial health and wellness manager at Horizons, said, “We work with people who feel stuck, anxious and overwhelmed and show them that they’re not alone. Our goal is to increase the financial capability of these individuals and families through financial education, coaching and access to services.  It’s inspiring to help clients meet their goals; over 90% of people we work with tell us they feel more confident about reaching their housing and financial goals after working with us.”

As a benefit of participating in the program and meeting its requirements, residents receive assistance toward a down payment on a house when they move out of Sugar Creek Bend that is equal to $100 for each month of residency.

Parker (photo left) said the financial preparedness advising in the program helped her look at her family’s budget to find new ways to save for the down payment and other moving expenses.

“We figured it out somehow and were able to start saving money and just kept putting more and more money in our savings,” she said.

With a little planning and careful budgeting Parker said she was pleased to find homeownership really was something her family could achieve, even on a budget.

“Go with your gut and know it’s going to work out, you’re going to find something nice,” she said.  “I think it’s more attainable than people realize.”

Community Housing Initiatives manages Sugar Creek Bend in partnership with Affordable Housing Network, Inc. , a local affordable housing nonprofit, as well as support from the Midwest Housing Equity Group and the Iowa Finance Authority.

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