“Homeownership wasn’t really my dream before – there was always something in the way,” says Nancy Flores, a single mother in Tucson, Arizona. But when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, the illness got her thinking about the importance being settled, of giving her two children a place to call home. “I started wondering, what if I die? What’s going to happen to my kids if I don’t have anything for them?” When she successfully finished her cancer treatment, Nancy was ready to embrace a future full of opportunities.
Born in California, Nancy grew up in Culiacán Sinaloa, Mexico. At 17, she moved to Arizona to study and work. She married, had two children, then got divorced. To save money, she and her children lived in Nogales with her children’s grandparents, and Nancy commuted more than an hour each way to her custodial job at the University of Arizona. It was there that she learned about Habitat for Humanity: the same day she attended a presentation on the program, she filled out her application online. “The next day they called me to set up an appointment,” she explains. “And from there I couldn’t believe how easy it was.”
“Easy” is a relative term. Sweat equity contributions are a vital component of Habitat for Humanity’s self-help model, and a vivid illustration of what getting a hand up, not a hand out, means to the organization’s partner families. As a single mother, for Nancy it meant finding time to spend 220 hours helping to build homes for other families, since her own home turned out to be a “recycled” Habitat home. “I was there every single Saturday until I finished all my hours,” says Nancy. Some weekends, she arrived on the construction site the morning after an overnight shift. “I’d be sleepy, but I’d be there!”
Nancy’s two children are thrilled to have their own rooms in a thoroughly rehabbed 3-bedroom house. “We had always been living in a one-bedroom apartment,” Nancy says. “Not only did I get a house, but I got a BEAUTIFUL house.” The children got to decorate their own rooms. Alissa, 5, is wearing ruby slippers when she shows off her room: overwhelmingly pink and glossy, with fairies flying around light fixtures and a castle painted on the wall, it’s a dream come true, designed for princesses. Adrian, 12, has a room that reflects his two greatest passions: computers and sports. Painted deep red and blue, the room pays tribute to his favorite basketball team, the University of Arizona Wildcats. But there is plenty of room for a tidy desk, complete with a computer and a printer.
“My favorite thing about the house is that it is my house,” Nancy says proudly. “People laugh at me because I get so excited talking about this program, but it is a very good program. They teach you everything you need to know to keep your house, and they are always going to make sure you are ready to get it.”
All Habitat families must qualify for and pay a mortgage on their new home, which Habitat extends, interest-free, based on the household’s ability to pay. In addition to her sweat equity contribution, Nancy saved $2,500 toward a downpayment on her home. Those savings were matched by a grant of $7,500 from FHLBank San Francisco’s Workforce Initiative Subsidy for Homeownership (WISH) Program, provided through Bank member National Bank of Arizona.
National Bank of Arizona has been the most active member participant in the Bank’s first-time homebuyer programs. Since 2003, National Bank of Arizona has disbursed $10.5 million dollars in WISH grants and helping 823 lower-income households buy a home. The total amount of WISH funds disbursed by all Bank members since 2003 is $38.1 million.
“Over the years, our level of participation in the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco’s homeownership programs has grown along with the market demand,” explains Kathleen Pechman, National Bank of Arizona Senior Vice President/CRA Officer. “As the member bank with the highest level of participation in the region, we’re proud to be able to help families, like the Flores family, realize their dream of homeownership. We also value our relationships with the nonprofit agencies, including Habitat for Humanity Tucson, that play such an important role in the overall success of these programs!”
The Bank also has a long history with Habitat for Humanity Tucson through its Affordable Housing Program. As of 2013, the organization has received nearly $1.5 million in AHP grants to create affordable homeownership opportunities for over 125 families. “Habitat for Humanity Tucson is bringing people together to build homes, hope, and communities,” said Michael McDonald, Habitat for Humanity Tucson Executive Director. “We truly would not be able to hand over the keys to more than 20 families each year, families just like Nancy and her kids, if it weren’t for the support of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco.”
“I know I’m going to stay here for a long time,” Nancy says. She recently began an online course studying billing and coding for the medical industry, a job that she would be able to do at home while spending more time with her kids. “Before, I was just working to pay the rent. Things are so different now: I have a lot of plans. I’m more stable, and I’m looking forward to the future.”
Sponsor: Habitat for Humanity Tucson
Award: $7,500 WISH Grant