The State of DC: From Homelessness to Homeownership

This column is written by Metro DC Houses, a local real estate team serving DC, MD, VA made up of Colin Johnson, the current President for the D.C. Association of Realtors and Christopher Suranna, the President Elect for D.C. Association of Realtors.

Hello PoPville, we would like wish everyone a wonderful Happy New Years. We wanted to warm everyone’s heart with a story that broke in December. We had the pleasure to meet Robin McKenney, who recently went from homelessness to homeownership.

Her story started when her subsidized home became uninhabitable which lead to a series of bureaucratic issues with her and her family ending up in one of the local hotels that stand in as temporary shelters for some of DC’s neediest residents. It was along that path that Robin was inspired to make a decision; the best way she could prevent this from happening again is to have ownership of her own property or as she says, “I now have the key to the city.”

We sat down with her to learn about her journey and what experiences she had with what the city has to offer for individuals looking to own. So how did she do it?

All of the below resources and descriptions are brief explanations and each of these programs have different requirements and limitations.

Robin had talked a lot about the support she received from LaRuby May, so we thought to reach out to her and hear her side of Robin’s journey. When speaking with former council member LaRuby May, who now owns The May Firm Pllc. Ms. May was an architect several years ago with an initiative called Move To Work Designation, which allows subsidized voucher recipients to use some of that money to assist in the payment of homes they own. In addition, there are several non-profit organizations that Robin was also able to coordinate with in order to facilitate with down payment assistance, credit repair and general education on homeownership responsibilities.

  • Robin utilized HPAP, Home Purchase Assistance Program, this is a lending and education program assisting in individuals looking to purchase in the District of Columbia. Check out DC’s HPAP website here.
  • Robin was also a DC government employee and DC employees can take advantage of a program called EAHP, Employer Assisted Housing Program, which is similar to HPAP but is just for DC employees and has different requirements and limitations. Check out DC’s EAHP website here.
  • Robin had great success in talking and working with the Latino Economic Development Center, which is a wealth of information and resource not just for homeownership. FYI, you do not need to be Latino to take advantage of these services.
  • Robin also checked in with Manna to see if their services may be a match for her. Ultimately, she did not use these services for her purchase, but they were a resource that others may wish to explore as they focus heavily on homeownership for moderate-income families.
  • Robin did take advantage of a credit repair service, which significantly improved her ability to borrow money at a more reasonable rate. These services in our experience can be risky so please validate the organization you choose. She used Lexington Law Group and this group was recommended by one of the case managers assisting with the process.
  • She also had a great seller/developer, Stanton View Development, who despite setbacks and delays was able and willing to work with Robin to achieve her goal. This is not a direct endorsement of them, but she has been very pleased with the work and their ability to work with her.
  • Finally, in case you haven’t heard, thanks to the District of Columbia Association of Realtors and the city council, the first-time home buyer tax credit was passed into law. This lowers the amount moderate income first time homebuyers have to bring for closing cost by HALF. Here is the website for this and it is not a program rather a reduction in recordation tax.

Long story short this process was not easy and in speaking with many people that helped Robin, she was her own greatest advocate. Unfortunately, many roads led to dead-ends and roadblocks, but with determination and strong advocates, this example proves you can make a change in one’s home situation. According to the most recent census, DC has some of the lowest homeownership rates in the country. These programs, initiatives and professional guidance can help change that, potentially for generations. We thank Robin for sharing her story and all those who had a step in helping her through her journey.

Metro DC Houses is a local real estate team serving DC, MD, VA made up of Colin Johnson, the immediate past President for the DC Association of Realtors and Christopher Suranna, the current President for DC Association of Realtors.

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