We all want to have a place to call home. A place we feel safe and comfortable. Stable housing is foundational to human dignity and agency within the economy, but many people for a variety of reasons see owning a home as an unattainable goal. Despite the fact that they are hard-working, make a good living, and provide for their family, they become stuck in the cycle of paying a large portion of their income towards rent without being able to build equity and wealth. What if someone was able to work their way towards a home?
Affordable housing is not an issue with a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s complex and has nuances in every city. It is with this idea in mind that we created The Reconstruct Challenge which sourced solutions from all over the country to address the affordable housing crisis in Louisville and Southern Indiana specifically. One of these solutions is set apart from the others because not only are they working to address the housing issues in our community, it’s home to them as well.
Affordable housing is not an issue with a one-size-fits-all solution.
New Directions and LHOME, along with HPI, a local non-profit real estate development organization, have created a program called Working Your Way Home, a program that works with employers to provide home buyer readiness courses and down payment assistance programs for their employers.
New Directions Housing Corporation was incorporated in 1971 with the goal to provide affordable housing development. Today, over 900 families live in the nonprofit’s rental housing. Working to address the community’s affordable housing needs for almost half a century, New Directions brings a level of knowledge and understanding that is unique among the cohort.
LHOME (Louisville Housing and Opportunities Micro-Enterprise Community Development Loan Fund, Inc.) was the first CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) in Louisville “is committed to providing accessible, affordable loan products and financial coaching services to its clients, most of whom are African American and African Refugees, living and/or working in West and South Louisville neighborhoods.”
Together, these organizations have a deep and informed understanding of the landscape of housing affordability in our community and have built a solution built upon collaboration and the utilization of the strengths of different organizations used together to make a big difference. “Good collaboration takes time, effort, and trust more than anything,” says Kitty McKune, Chief of Revitalization at New Directions Housing Corporation.
Working Your Way Home is a program that works with employers to provide home buyer readiness courses and down payment assistance programs for their employers. Kitty McKune pitched this joint application on behalf of all the partners in August 2019 and was selected to receive one of the six Reconstruct Challenge grants to implement their solution. “When Kitty gave the presentation, we were the least high-tech, the least savvy, we’re middle-aged, it wasn’t the typical start-up pitch. We had problems with our powerpoint, but what she presented really mattered and continues to matter. We are tackling this issue out of a deep love for our city and for our fellow community members who have been underserved and a deep understanding of the affordable housing crisis and barriers that exist in our city, in particular,” says Amy Shir, President and CEO of LHOME.
Through the Working Your Way Home program, LHOME, HPI, and NDHC hope to provide down payment assistance to 75 individuals through employers such as Facility Management Inc., who launched their first cohort of 15 employees in a homebuyer education course in September, Save-A-Lot, and more. Witnessing someone own their first home is powerful. Jessica, the first new homeowner through this program tells her story in the video below.'
Being the only local recipient in the Reconstruct Challenge cohort, these companies play an important role. It has been wonderful to see them collaborate with the other companies and use their knowledge and understanding of our local landscape, as well as the relationships and connections they have built over decades of work, to help the other recipients penetrate the market in Louisville and Southern Indiana. “If any of these groups succeed, it’s a win for Louisville. Why in the world, would I, sitting in the city that is going to benefit from these ideas and services, not want to help them?” says Kitty McKune of New Directions.