Durham Habitat Uses United Way Grant To Expand Financial Literacy Initiatives
Kyle and Labesha began the process of purchasing their first home in 2015 and like many couples, they were excited about the prospect of finding a stable, affordable place in which their family could put down roots. Up until that point, the couple – both of whom happen to be legally blind – had been empowered by monthly housing assistance. But while water was typically included in their monthly rent payments, other utilities weren’t, and those costs continued to increase each year.
“We needed a place to live that we could call our own, where the cost of the monthly payment was more stable,” said Kyle.
They first tried applying for a mortgage through their bank but the interest rate on the loan significantly limited what they could afford within their budget. Durham Habitat for Humanity, on the other hand, offered a 0% interest loan, which made their anticipated monthly mortgage payment stable and affordable.
Last year, Durham Habitat partnered with the Latino Credit Union to offer a financial literacy and home maintenance program. Its purpose was to re-engage homeowners that had been in their homes for at least five years.
Kyle and Labesha were quick to sign up.
The program consisted of 6 classes: three focused on Financial Literacy and three offering hands-on home maintenance training.
During the Financial Literacy portion, Latino Credit Union helped homeowners create a savings budget and open an account. Durham Habitat matched every dollar that participants saved in six months with funds awarded through their grant from United Way of the Greater Triangle. These classes also taught participants about managing, building, and making good decisions for their credit, interest rates, types of savings accounts, and budgeting for wants vs. needs.
“Financial literacy is something we ask them to focus a lot on. Once you’re into your home and you have a $250,000 asset, you’re going to be getting offers for credit. It’s up to the homeowners to make these wise decisions about how to protect that,” explained Lakeisha Minor, Durham Habitat’s Direct of Homeowner Services. “I wanted the participants to think about where they are now financially and where they want to go.”
During the DIY home maintenance portion of the program, participants learned everything from how to replace windowpanes to main gutters to checking for leaks in plumbing and drywall patching.
Kyle says that he and Labesha feel more empowered to care for their home than they did before the program.
“I already knew about things like doorknobs and some parts of toilet repair, but [the other lessons] taught us a great deal, including when to hire someone vs. when we can fix something ourselves.”
By the end of the program, the 11 participants saved a total of $4,725 pre-match. Participants also walked away with tool bags that contained basic tools that they could use for home repair projects in the future. But the biggest thing gained was that sense of empowerment.
“I feel that home maintenance is a critical part of home ownership, and that programs like this are very much needed to help keep our costs down and our homes in good condition,” Kyle said. “I would recommend that a home maintenance program be a part of the path to home ownership as well as something that is revisited from time to time after the home is purchased.