Home ownership seen as an essential tool to break the cycle of generational poverty
Central Florida, USA –For too many hard-working people, the dream of owning a home is just that, a dream. They work hard, they provide for their families, they pay their rent. But at the end of the month, there is no money left to set aside toward a down payment on a home of their own. But now, an area business leader and philanthropist is rallying support in an effort to make home ownership possible for more people. She has started a movement known as Homes Bring Hope.
For more than ten years, Forough Hosseini, a Senior Vice President of ICI Homes, her family’s company – and one of America’s largest homebuilders – has helped address the complex community problems of student homelessness and food insecurity. Her organizations, Food Brings Hope and VCan, which are both FBH Community organizations, help students and their families deal with these issues. Now, she is intent on attacking the root cause of these and other problems, generational poverty.
“Even for hard working people, there is little chance of breaking the perpetual cycle of generational poverty unless they can find a path to home ownership and build equity,” says Ms. Hosseini. “Homes Bring Hope is comprised of community leaders who want to help hard-working people triumph over poverty, become homeowners and break that cycle. Economists agree that escaping poverty is best achieved by building equity, which means becoming a homeowner instead of a renter.”
Among community leaders joining the movement are Glenn Ritchey, Jill Simpkins and other philanthropists who are helping fund the initiative together with the Hosseini family.
Additionally, Homes Bring Hope is working with Realty Pros Assured, Southern Title, Sliger & Associates, Daytona State College, Halifax Urban Ministries and other companies and organizations to achieve its mission. “Executives of these and other companies work with us to
create a path to homeownership,” said Ms. Hosseini, who announced her new organization’s first successful outreach this month when Petra Smiley closed on the purchase of a home in Daytona Beach, following years as a renter.
“I am very appreciative of all of the individuals and organizations who have come together to assist me in becoming a homeowner,” said Ms. Smiley. “There are not enough words to describe how grateful I am.”
Petra Smiley’s story is one of hard work, hope and determination. She works at Mount Bethel Baptist Institutional Church as an office manager. She works 35 hours per week but the job pays only little over $18,000 per year. She has been a renter for more than 20 years, living in subsidized housing through the Daytona Beach Housing Authority for the last 7 years.
Homes Bring Hope brings together realtors, lenders, down payment assistance programs, title companies, and experts in the housing area to help clients navigate the path to homeownership. For Ms. Smiley, the team worked to attain down payment assistance. They arranged for a free survey by Sliger & Associates and worked with Halifax Urban Ministries to purchase a home warranty and more. Through it all, Ms. Smiley’s primary motivation to pursue a home of her own has been her children. She wants to raise them in a safe neighborhood with good schools.
While the seeds of Homes Bring Hope emanate from Ms. Hosseini’s decade-long efforts to help students and their families, the movement took a leap forward when the Florida Chamber of Commerce announced its Prosperity Initiative last year. That program was created in response to a study that revealed that 50 percent of Florida’s 870,505 poverty-stricken children reside in just fifteen-percent (15%) of Florida’s 983 zip codes. In some zip codes, the poverty level exceeds 50 percent. The Prosperity Initiative targets zip codes with the highest poverty rates in an effort to reduce their poverty levels to less than ten percent.
Florida Chamber CEO, Mark Wilson, travelled to Daytona Beach to encourage Ms. Hosseini to lead the fight against generational poverty in this region and she promptly accepted the challenge. “Any movement toward our goal takes a bite out of poverty and helps deserving people build a better future based on their own hard work. Once the cycle of poverty is broken, the next generations will be able to look to the future with optimism and hope that they could not experience otherwise.”
With the first successful closing now complete and the purchase of another home well along the path to closing, the leaders of the Homes Bring Hope movement are optimistic about closing on 12 homes in the organization’s first year of operation. Under typical scenarios, Homes Bring Hope programs work alongside the Housing Authority of the City of Daytona Beach, Mid-Florida Housing Partnership and the City of Daytona Beach to help the buyer qualify for down-payment assistance. The buyer’s monthly mortgage payments, coupled with HACDB’s Housing Choice Voucher funds, will enable the buyer to own his or her own home, begin to build equity, and ultimately save the taxpayers substantial amount of money since the mortgage will eventually be paid off - but rentals would be perpetual.
Already, the Homes Bring Hope movement has generated media attention. Its website <HomesBringHope.org> is expected to go live in April, which will attract more volunteers and philanthropists and will provide an introduction to prospective clients who may aspire to prosperity and are willing to commit to doing what it takes to achieve it.
“There is no question that we will succeed in reducing the poverty level in our community,” said a determined Forough Hosseini. “The only question is how long will it take to get there.”