Program Helps Low-Income Families Become Home Owners

July 25, 2017 05:18 PM

The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority wants to help low-income families own their home.

It's the purpose behind a program known as "Lease-to-Own."

Charles Thorstad joined the program nearly five years ago.


He said the "Lease-to-Own" program is a dream come true.

"It feels great," Thorstad said. "I never really thought that this would happen to me in a lifetime, really. I love this neighborhood and I say hello to all my neighbors."

According to the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, the program is currently limited to MPHA-owned, two-bedroom public housing town homes in the Heritage Park Neighborhood of North Minneapolis.

Janice Hughes, the coordinator of the "Lease-to-Own" program, explained candidates must be public-housing eligible and have a household income around 80 percent of their annual monthly income.

Candidates must also participate in counseling services.

"The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority has always been dedicated to service low-income to moderate income families," Hughes said. "When we bought these town homes we envisioned that there would be residents who would be interested in purchasing, and they would have an opportunity to work with us to become mortgage-ready."

According to MPHA, candidates must show that they can qualify for an MPHA-approved mortgage loan within three years and purchase the town home within five years.

It was a process that created unwarranted fear for Thorstad.

"Being a renter most of my life, you would think that you wouldn't be able to own a home because they advertise them for hundreds of thousands of dollars," Thorstad said. "I received help and found out my mortgage payment was cheaper than paying rent."

The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority purchased the town homes in 2005 for about $130,000 each. The units have since appraised for nearly $150,000. 

Future home owners are expected to pay the original purchase price, which equates to a mortgage payment of about $800 a month. There is also an opportunity to receive financial assistance.

"We assist with escrowing about 10 percent of the rent paid (per) month to be used with down payment assistance," Hughes said. "There is also a match for a resident's personal savings account up to $1,500."

Jeff Horwich, communications director for MPHA, said they are looking at more home ownership initiatives as part of solving a bigger issue in Minneapolis.

"On a broader scale, we have a 15,000 people on different public housing waiting lists," Horwich said. " That gives you some sense of the demand."

Meanwhile, Thorstad is proud to be a home owner. He said the feeling of owning his own home is priceless.


Cleo Greene

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