Federal grant helps counsel Philly homebuyers on buying and retaining their homes

A closeup of detailing on Philly row houses

Shown are rowhouses in Philadelphia, Friday, April 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Urban League and Congressman Brendan Boyle have teamed up to secure a $360,000 grant to help people stay in their homes or move into new homes.

The money will be used for the Urban League’s Housing Counseling program which provides support for residents in the city who are trying to avoid homelessness and displacement. Money is also used to move people into homes through a financial education component and tenant rights workshops to prevent eviction and foreclosures.

Mia Rowell got a $1,000 grant through the program to buy a home, but said more importantly she received support to help her through the homebuying process. She has been in the program for two years, carefully reviewing her choices. With the assistance of the Urban League, she said the counseling process helped her understand what was necessary to be a homeowner.

“I was indecisive, the fear of purchasing a home, I had some doubts along the way, it wasn’t so much the financial piece, it was making sure I was ready for the big buy, the big purchase.”

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Andrea Custas, CEO of the Urban League of Philadelphia said the funding provides up to $10,000 for a down payment and additional money for settlement expenses. She adds the counseling and eviction prevention component of the program helps people improve their financial literacy.

Custas added that banks are happy to work with their graduates. “Each mortgage officer has a whole checklist that they must go down,” she said. “Well, we absolutely have everything on that checklist that they have. So, we’ve never been refused a mortgage, never our folks, because they are so prepared.”

Congressman Boyle said the money was part of federal Community Project Funding, an initiative that allows members of Congress to request money specifically for communities they represent. The money is separate from other federal money and is a competition, so he is happy that the money was made available for his district. Boyle said there has been too much disinvestment in urban areas and this will help put more funding and enhance home ownership.

“Everyone has a right to safe, stable, and affordable housing. The housing counseling program works towards building equity in our communities, ensuring that first time homeowners have the right tools, and that families working to avoid foreclosure have the resources to do so.”

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Boyle said he believes this is a way to help with the American dream of ownership and spoke about how his parents and grandparents worked their way up to buying and he  believes a little help can expand home ownership in the city and the country, especially for people who haven’t had the opportunity to do so in the past.

Broke in PhillyWHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

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