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HRI in the spotlight as organization prepares to administer city's down-payment program

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Dancing together

Tre Williams of the Racine Family YMCA-George Bray Branch and Dasheika Kidd, program manager at Housing Resources Inc., dance during the African American Chamber of Commerce Greater Racine's business expo on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021.

RACINE — There is a direct correlation between homeownership and the stabilization of neighborhoods.

Dasheika Kidd headshot

Kidd

Dasheika Kidd, program manager of Housing Resources Inc. (HRI), said for families who have overcome housing insecurity, there is less stress on the family, the children do better in school, they feel like they belong, and they are driven to take care of their homes. It is also one of the fastest ways to build generational wealth.

That’s win-win.

HRI is a nonprofit that has worked for more than two decades in Racine with low and moderate income families to overcome barriers and help people — most of them first-generation homebuyers — achieve what is sometimes called the American dream.

“We have a huge footprint in the community,” Kidd said about the decades they have worked with Racine residents to educate them about the process of homeownership.

HRI Racine has been in the spotlight since the city announced the non-profit would be taking over the administration of the city’s down payment assistance program.

HRI was the only firm to bid on the three-year contract, for $442,883. It is the only nonprofit certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for providing homebuyer education and counseling in the city, which are required for the program.

Financial literacy

Kidd explained one of the differences between the city’s down payment assistance grant and other grants is there are no income restrictions. Applicants just have to be a first-time homebuyer and looking to buy in the City of Racine.

Many of the people who use the services provided by HRI are not only first-time homebuyers; they may also be first-generation homebuyers.

Kidd explained some clients do not come from families where they were taught financial literacy, the importance of credit in purchasing a home, or how to budget and save for a down payment.

HRI currently provides a six-hour homebuyer education class once a month where participants hear from the professionals involved in the process — such as realtors, lenders, home inspectors and insurance agents — so after the class they have a holistic understanding of the process and what is expected.

Before the pandemic, the class was held in-person. Since 2020, the classes have been virtual. The class costs $50 and are offered in English and Spanish.

Kidd explained that many of those participating in the program will also need guidance in preparing to buy a home.

Inspections and more

One of the things she sees frequently from first-time homebuyers is the inclination to waive the home inspection to save some money. Clients have to be told that is not the way to go. If the roof is in bad shape, or some other big expense is on the horizon, a home inspection should inform the buyer how much they might have to spend on repairs after the purchase.

“A home inspection is not something you want to waive,” Kidd said. “Working with us, they know the importance of it.”

HRI prepares their clients for the process. Some people cannot just go to a bank and borrow money to buy a house. They might have work to do to get their credit score up, pay down debt, and save for a down payment.

Participants may also need guidance in calculating just how much house they can afford.

Kidd said some of their clients have predatory loans, liens or judgements to overcome on their way to financial stability. They might need to learn how to negotiate to get debt down to something manageable or get out from underneath a predatory lender.

“Some people do not understand credit,” she said. “If you were never taught credit, there is a lack of financial literacy and it may take a person into adulthood to understand.”

For that reason, HRI and the city’s Financial Empowerment Center work hand-in-hand. FEC provides free, professional, one-on-one expertise in financial literacy to city residents regardless of income.

HRI will work with clients as long as it takes to overcome barriers to homeownership. Whether it is six months or three years, homeownership specialists will continue to work with clients on an action plan, credit, and budget.

“HRI has professional and dedicated staff that are passionate about the work that they do,” Kidd said. “We wouldn’t be successful without their passionate efforts.”

HRI will continue to work with clients after they have purchased a home offering post-purchase classes, which are $25. In the post-purchase class, HRI partners with another set of professionals, such as the Racine Fire Department to talk about fire safety, a financial advisor to talk about life insurance policies, wills and estate planning, a local hardware store to talk about home maintenance, and Racine Neighborhood Watch.

HRI also offers a $750 minor home repair grant based on income as applicants must be income eligible.

Additionally, HRI also offers free foreclosure services. If anyone is at risk of losing their home, they can work with a professional to help keep their house.

Challenges

There are also challenges to purchasing a home that are outside of the client’s control. Right now, it is a seller’s market. Prices are up and competition for affordable homes is fierce.

Racine is experiencing the same challenge as other cities; that is, investment buying. People are not necessarily buying a home to live in and maintain. They’re buying to rent out the property for income.

These homes owned by absentee landlords are not always maintained in the standard of an owner-occupier and the practice does not contribute to neighborhood stabilization. The practice is also driving up both rent and the cost of housing.

“They’re really driving up the price of housing and placing first-time homebuyers out of the market,” Kidd said and added that it can be discouraging for the clients.

They might put an offer on multiple houses and get rejected, she continued. That is when it is especially important for them to have the support system at HRI for encouragement, guidance, and support.

However, the city is moving forward with plans for additional affordable housing.

Kidd spoke with excitement about the $15 million grant from the state’s Neighborhood Investment grant that will add additional affordable housing to the Lincoln King neighborhood.

The grant will pay for the building of new homes as well as the rehabilitation of existing properties. The homes will be prioritized for city employees, essential workers, those with moderate to low incomes, and those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, the city dedicated $1.5 million ARPA funds to build five new homes on vacant lots in racially diverse neighborhoods. After those homes are sold, the proceeds will be returned to the Community Development Authority, who will build more homes on vacant lots until the money runs out.

“It’s exciting, and amazing,” Kidd said. “I can’t wait to see what city is going to look like in three years with the building of this new affordable housing.”

Kidd praised Mayor Cory Mason for his vision in establishing the Financial Empowerment Center and the city down payment assistance grant program

Mason has contributed in unprecedented ways in helping city residents overcome barriers in order to achieve financial literacy and homeownership, she said.

“He recognized there were disparities and moved to address them,” she added.

She also praised the City Council for their historic investments to help stabilize Racine neighborhoods.

“They’re doing a great job,” she said. “There are now more down payment assistance programs than I’ve ever seen in my time working in this field.”

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Dee Hölzel has been reporting since 1999 and joined the Journal Times in October 2020. Dee graduated with an MA in History from the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, specializing in the intersection of history and journalism.

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