Incorporated in 2001, the New Haven HomeOwnership Center has become the central housing agency in the region that provides comprehensive pre- and post-purchase homebuyer/homeowner education classes, financial fitness workshops, and credit counseling to residents of the Greater New Haven area.
As an affiliate of Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven and as a chartered NeighborWorks® Organization, the HOC is a HUD-certified housing counseling agency and has access to the industry’s best practices and most current housing information. What distinguishes the New Haven HomeOwnership Center is that we provide courses on a broad variety of topics, including mortgage referrals, delinquency intervention counseling and direct financing (including “rescue” funds for homeowners facing foreclosure) that might not be available elsewhere. Our “one-stop-shop” concept makes it possible for prospective homebuyers to use any or all portions of the services the HOC has to offer.
1. Raise an additional $200,000 in 2015 in program support so that the HOC can enhance its programming to meet the demands of our clients.
2. Raise an additional $100,000 for the HOC’s Rescue Fund, which offers assistance to distressed homeowners who need funds to help them qualify for sustainable modifications. (Zero interest deferred loans to be repaid at refinance or sale of property; with no required monthly payment since these are deferred loans.)
3. Expand our pre-purchase educational courses to reach more first-time homebuyers throughout Connecticut. As our marketing strategies intensify, we would like to see sufficient demand to offer additional homebuyer classes in different towns. Currently, we offer a monthly mortgage intervention workshop in Meriden in addition to our full roster of classes offered at our New Haven campus.
4. Increase attendance at our post-purchase financial fitness and budgeting workshops and home maintenance classes so that our homeowners will be more skilled at managing their finances and adept at undertaking many of their own small rehab projects without hiring a contractor.
5. Expand our revolving loan fund to provide rehabilitation and home improvement loans to qualifying homeowners in the Hill and Newhallville who would like to reinvest in their homes.
The New Haven HomeOwnership Center, in association with Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven, is in the unique position in New Haven of addressing several aspects of neighborhood revitalization and community stabilization simultaneously. We promote homeownership through our affordable housing development activities. At the same time, we educate our prospective homebuyers so that they will be knowledgeable about all aspects of the home purchase process. Our goal is for all of our homebuyers to be especially well-equipped to sustain the ownership of their homes. We strengthen communities by encouraging resident engagement in the areas where we are rehabilitating houses and promoting homeownership.
The HOC and NHS are keenly aware of the financial strain that unanticipated expenses can have on low-income homeowners. For that reason we make our houses energy-efficient and undertake a thorough and comprehensive rehabilitation of each and every house we acquire. We also help our homebuyers get attractive fixed-rate mortgages with the best possible terms. Our goal is to make housing costs as predictable as possible. If financial problems should arise, we have financial counselors available to provide assistance.
The unique blend of affordable housing development, comprehensive homebuyer education, financial fitness training, hands-on post-purchase homebuyer education, and community organizing/resident engagement poise our new homebuyers for successful homeownership experiences and greatly improve the quality of life in the neighborhoods in which we are working. Indeed, we are convinced that such a holistic approach to neighborhood revitalization is a literal prerequisite for success. Homeownership alone will not turn around a faltering neighborhood; nor will simply fixing up houses or waiting for the overall housing market to rebound. These factors must be combined with effective resident engagement if the neighborhoods in which we are working are to become safe, stable, and vibrant communities where families want to live and raise their children.
I first became involved with NHS of New Haven when I became one of their first loan clients more than 30 years ago. I was so pleased with their willingness to help that I spread the word about them and referred several people to them. Then I became more and more involved, serving on their Board of Directors as a neighborhood resident representative and eventually becoming the Board President. This has been a very exciting journey for me, and I consider it an honor to serve this organization.
It gives me great pleasure and satisfaction to serve an organization that has made a real difference in the lives of hundreds of clients and their families through its various homeownership programs. I choose to volunteer and be a part of NHS because caring for the well-being of others is important to me, as is making homes affordable to those who may not otherwise have an opportunity to own a home. Stabilizing and revitalizing our neighborhoods makes our communities safer and addresses the problems of many homes that are in need of extreme rehabilitation. I am deeply grateful to NHS for achieving its goals and touching the lives of so many people.
Foreclosure Prevention: The HomeOwnership Center helps homeowners to restructure their loans and avoid foreclosure. Our foreclosure prevention classes explain the entire foreclosure process, including what options are available to homeowners throughout the process. Our foreclosure intervention clients are required to take the monthly financial fitness class we offer to new homeowners and prospective homebuyers. Learning strategies to manage expenses, adhere to a budget, and stay current on all bills will help out customers to avoid the possibility of foreclosure.
Post-purchase Homebuyer Education and Hands-on Training: The HOC encourages all new homebuyers and existing homeowners to avail themselves of the hands-on post-purchase classes offered by the NHS rehab department. Education and training in home maintenance and energy conservation have a huge impact on the ultimate success of one’s homeownership experience.
As the foreclosure crisis begins to abate, our housing specialists are seeing fewer clients who are seeking foreclosure prevention services. This is a positive sign of the economy's recovery. However, we will continue to make our foreclosure prevention services available to homeowners who are still feeling the effects of the foreclosure crisis.The HOC anticipates that the following number of participants will benefit from our services in 2015:
Ø 120 clients will receive foreclosure intervention counseling and loss mitigation services;
Ø 80% of clients will obtain a positive outcome, which may be an affordable and sustainable mortgage modification, a revised family budget that reallocates resources to make existing mortgage payments affordable, or a short-sale in instances when continued ownership is no longer possible.
Ø 100 clients will receive an individual consultation with a certified mortgage delinquency specialist who will perform an income/expense analysis and create an action plan that details all the next steps borrowers must follow and the options that are available based on their current and prospective financial situation.
Ø 5 homeowners will benefit from 0% deferred loans from our Rescue Fund.
Successful program results are based on HOC clients receiving affordable mortgage workout solutions that offer monthly housing costs at 31% of gross income. In situations where clients can no longer afford their monthly mortgage payments, HOC counselors attempt to find the option(s) that best accommodate each client’s needs, such as a short sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure. Regardless of the mortgage intervention resolution, the underlying goal is for clients to put into practice the extensive financial counseling and basic financial fitness skills so that they establish and sustain responsible spending habits, create and adhere to a strategic budget, and plan for the future. This directly relates to our mission of creating strong, educated residents who will remain invested in their communities and sustain their investment in homeownership.
Examples of success of the program can be summarized with the following numbers: since 2008, 1,982 distressed homeowners have received foreclosure prevention services; 375 homeowners have obtained an affordable mortgage solution; 94 homeowners received $257,560 in Rescue Fund assistance; and 22 participants successfully saved a minimum of $1,000 to receive matching funds for home improvements through an earlier IDA program.
The HOC has been recognized for its success in working with clients who are facing foreclosure. An excerpt from a letter of appreciation: “Tim and I will never be able to thank you enough for your generous support, help and guidance. You went above and beyond the call of duty whenever, wherever you could for which we are so grateful. NHS has a gem with you on their staff. I hope all of your clients know how incredibly fortunate they are to have you guiding them through a ruthless process.”
Our program helps first-time homebuyers gain the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the home purchase process. Our goal is to help our homebuyers find the home that's right for them and to secure and sustain market-rate, prime mortgages that keep homeownership affordable over the long term. Landlord training is also provided to buyers of two- and three-family homes. In our initial homebuyer orientation and subsequent homebuyer education classes, we provide detailed information on the various savings programs offered by banks and other lending institutions. In our financial literacy training, we provide instruction on effective financial planning on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis. Our homebuyer education services include specific counseling on financial goal-setting that is compatible with a family’s monthly income and is consistent with their established budget.
The HOC anticipates that the following number of participants will benefit from our services in 2015:
Ø 300 prospective homeowners will enroll in pre-purchase homebuyer education and individual credit counseling;
Ø 200 homebuyers will purchase their first home;
Ø 100 new homebuyers will receive financial fitness training;
Ø 50 owners of multifamily houses will receive landlord training;
Long-term success will be apparent when our clients:
Ø Understand the complicated world of financial planning;
Ø Save for a downpayment on a house;
Ø Prepare to apply for a mortgage;
Ø Establish and adhere to a budget;
Ø Appreciate the value of one’s investments;
Ø Learn about reinvesting in one’s property;
The HOC’s financial literacy and budgeting classes build confidence in our participants who want to be first-time homebuyers and want to learn how to manage their budgets so that they can save towards a downpayment. The housing counselors are deeply committed to their clients and empower them to make wise decisions in the complicated world of financial planning. The overall result is that homeowners take pride in their investments, become financially solvent to stay in their own homes, and actively engage with their neighbors to keep the neighborhood safe and free of urban degradation.
The most effective method to track positive financial behavioral change is through a client’s credit score. The credit counseling portion of our services can take several months depending on the issues presented. Every six months, the HOC will pull all of the clients’ credit reports to see changes in scoring and to track payments of debts. These findings will be recorded through our software with easily accessible data points to see changes in scores and debts. The housing counselors discuss and explain all accounts listed on the credit report and offer guidance on a strategic and realistic plan to address each of the respective accounts.
“The HOC does a fabulous job grooming families for responsible homeownership. As a young family, we didn’t have a sense of direction until we owned our home. This has changed our future.”
“I wanted to thank you so much for what you've done for my family and I. We couldn't be happier, and you really helped in making my home owning dreams come true.”
“They make you feel at home.”
James Paley has been executive director of Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven for the past 35 years and executive director of the New Haven HomeOwnership Center since its inception in March 2001. Since earning his doctorate from Cornell University in 1980 (where his dissertation focused on residential mobility patterns in New York City), he has presided over a program that has grown from a small housing rehabilitation organization to a sophisticated housing development corporation that concentrates on neighborhood stabilization, affordable housing production, and homebuyer education programs. His professional expertise focuses on innovative financing packages; neighborhood revitalization strategies; homeownership education, counseling, and training; and project management. From 1996 until 2008, he served on the Community Advisory Board for JPMorgan Chase, and he currently serves as the Vice Chair of Community Housing Capital Board of Directors.
Ms. Russell currently manages program development for client services and staff training for the New Haven HomeOwnership Center, a subsidiary of Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven. She directs the implementation of the pre- and post-purchase curriculum, financial literacy and budgeting classes, homeowner counseling, and Full Cycle Lendingsm products. A graduate of the College of William and Mary with a degree in Political Science, Ms. Russell has also completed Homebuyer Education and Financial Fitness certification programs through NeighborWorks® America.
With more than twenty years’ experience in financial management training and residential real estate, Ms. Russell has partnered with banks, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations to develop and present homebuyer and financial literacy programs in Atlanta, Orlando, Baltimore, Oakland, Little Rock, San Antonio, and much of Connecticut.
The HOC works in conjunction with other nonprofit community agencies, banks, faith-based organizations and other stakeholders in an effort to inform, educate and assist first-time homebuyers and distressed homeowners. Depending on their circumstances, we may refer clients to a social service agency such as Community Mediation, the Community Action Agency, and Christian Community Action.
The HOC works with the City of New Haven, the State Department of Housing (through the Connecticut Housing Investment Fund), Housing Development Fund, and First Niagara Bank to obtain downpayment assistance for our homebuyers to ensure that their total costs are affordable. We work with the Greater New Haven Community Loan Fund for referrals of prospective homebuyers. The HOC remains a key partner with the Real Options/Overcoming Foreclosure (ROOF) Initiative, established in 2008 to raise awareness of foreclosure issues, although ROOF is less active now that the foreclosure crisis is winding down.
We are open to collaborations that extend beyond Greater New Haven on initiatives that relate to homebuyer education and counseling as well as foreclosure intervention. In 2014, the HOC was the lead organization in a statewide foreclosure intervention collaboration sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Housing that included five other organizations from all across the state.
Sound managerial direction, commitment from board members and experienced staff have all contributed to making the HomeOwnership Center the leading agency in Greater New Haven that promotes homeownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income residents.
The HOC staff consists of the executive director who has 35 years’ experience in community development, affordable housing development, and homeownership education; a managing director, a housing counselor coordinator, four housing counselors, an administrative assistant and a part-time data-entry specialist. Three staff members are bilingual and assist Spanish-speaking clients. The managing director administers and coordinates several homeownership programs that are offered by local, state and federal government agencies and she is highly experienced in processing the copious paperwork and staying on track with the required deadlines. All the housing counselors are certified in mortgage delinquency and foreclosure counseling by NeighborWorks® America. They participate in webinars and trainings offered by the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and NeighborWorks® America. They also stay abreast of any updates to state legislated requirements that pertain to borrowers facing foreclosure as well as to changes in other industry procedures. Two counselors and the administrative assistants speak Spanish and can offer direct services to our Spanish-speaking populations.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
The greatest challenge faced by the New Haven HomeOwnership Center is one of sustainability. Many of the low- and moderate-income clients with whom we work lack the means to pay the cost of delivering the services that they are receiving from our organization. Our foreclosure intervention clients are at risk of losing their homes in foreclosure. They certainly do not have the funds to compensate our organization for the services we are providing to them. And our first-time homebuyers are typically low- and moderate-income families. We need to develop new sources of revenue so that we can continue to provide the wide range of services that we offer to our clients.
Affordability of housing remains a pressing issue throughout Connecticut. 38% of Connecticut’s households spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The strain of these costs poses a considerable risk to homeowners and homebuyers alike. Fortunately, the New Haven HomeOwnership Center’s services can help them. As staunch advocates for our clients, we are committed to helping existing homeowners and first-time homebuyers in the Greater New Haven area in any way that we can, evolving our services so that we can meet their needs.
We are working hard to make our organization more sustainable, with activities that generate a greater portion of the revenue needed to support our operations. Still, we rely on the generosity of individuals and businesses that support our operations. In the case of banks and insurance companies, our work should be seen as complementary to their financial success: stabilizing communities encourages lending activity and reduces losses due to fire and theft. Local businesses have a vested interest in the stability and vibrancy of our residential neighborhoods. Our organization is a partnership that benefits the entire Greater New Haven community and relies on a broad spectrum of supporters to sustain its existence.
This profile, including the financial summaries prepared and submitted by the organization based on its own independent and/or internal audit processes and regulatory submissions, has been read by the Foundation. Financial information is inputted by Foundation staff directly from the organization’s IRS Form 990, audited financial statements or other financial documents approved by the nonprofit’s board. The Foundation has not audited the organization’s financial statements or tax filings, and makes no representations or warranties thereon. The Community Foundation is continuing to receive information submitted by the organization and may periodically update the organization’s profile to reflect the most current financial and other information available. The organization has completed the fields required by The Community Foundation and updated their profile in the last year. To see if the organization has received a competitive grant from The Community Foundation in the last five years, please go to the General Information Tab of the profile.
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