The 2010 East Liberty Community Plan outlined the community’s vision of a vibrant, mixed-income neighborhood. Ten years later, crime is down, East Liberty’s commercial core has become a destination across Pittsburgh, and affordable and market-rate housing sit seamlessly together side by side. As new investment continues to come into the neighborhood, we are working hard at ELDI to preserve this healthy mix as well as create opportunities for long-time residents. That’s why we launched our Affordable Homeownership Opportunities program (AHO) in 2017. This program is designed to help ELDI rental tenants transition into homeownership by providing them with the opportunities and tools they need to succeed. Our ultimate goal? Help long-time East Liberty residents, particularly minority residents, build wealth in the neighborhood and enjoy the fruits of East Liberty’s revitalization.
How it works
Potential homeowners (current ELDI tenants) are given preference to purchase homes within ELDI’s housing portfolio in East Liberty and surrounding communities. We notify all current ELDI tenants of this opportunity, and if they are interested, we connect them with Catapult Greater Pittsburgh for a pre-purchase assessment. This allows us to gauge they’re readiness—if they’re in a position to purchase now, or, if they are ready to undertake the journey, what help they will need to get there.
Once a tenant says they are ready, they enter into Catapult’s D.O.O.R. (Developing Ownership Opportunities for Residents) program. This is a comprehensive homeownership program that guides individuals through every aspect of the home buying process as well as preparing them for everything that happens after closing. The program addresses the specific needs of a first-time homebuyer and the challenges and barriers they may face, from improving their credit to securing a loan.
So far, we’ve had eight tenants successfully complete the program with eight more in the process—almost all of them are minority tenants.
“Most are excited,” says Mary Hester, ELDI’s affordable homeownership specialist and founder of LifeVenture Real Estate Solutions. “Some are a bit reluctant as they don’t understand the undertaking of being a homeowner, and that’s where Catapult’s one-on-one sessions and monthly homebuyer workshops help. It allows them to get comfortable with all the aspects of homeownership and what it means to go through the home buying process. A lot of people need that to even decide if homeownership is something they want to pursue.”
What the process is like
Once tenants start their homeownership journey, it’s up to them to do the hard work necessary to make their dreams a reality. Along the way, ELDI and our partners at Catpult check in to make sure they are getting the support they need.
Gerald McClendon worked with Catapult (then known as Circles Greater Pittsburgh) and ELDI to become a homeowner in Enright Court in 2018. He shares his experience:
“Before I moved into my place, I had a couple of one-on-ones with Tammy and Brettney Duck (community coordinator for Circles) to go over things that I should be prepared for. We talked about the importance of keeping some savings in case something happens as well as a lot of other points. They really go hard for you. They want to see people getting into homes, and then they stay with you even after you’re in. They follow up and check on how everything is going.”
We are now in year three of the program and look forward to getting more individuals and families into homes. In the months and years ahead, we will strive to narrow the homeownership gap to make a lasting impact for future generations.
“The feedback, as far as the overall model, has been great,” Mary shares. “Tenants see that they have the option to purchase the home they’re currently living in if they want to, and if they don’t, they can purchase another home. The key is that they see ELDI is giving them the chance to figure that out and educate themselves. It’s about giving people options and an opportunity to purchase a home and build equity in a great market.”
Read a tenant’s perspective
Now that you know what the program is all about, read our Q&As with tenants who participated in different aspects of the program to become homeowners.
Learn more about affordable homeownership in East Liberty