It was a joyful day in July 2023 when Pittsburgh native Kia Buchanan closed on her first home in McKeesport, achieving her dream of affordable homeownership. After a long, multi-year process with several starts and stops, she’s the first to admit that it took a village.

The journey first started when Buchanan got connected to East Liberty Development, Inc. (ELDI) when she was a resident of the former East Liberty Gardens. During the redevelopment of East Liberty Gardens, she was relocated to East Liberty’s Enright Court where she heard about ELDI’s Affordable Homeownership Opportunities program.

By this point, Buchanan had already started to consider homeownership to avoid moving her three kids around again.

That was in 2017, but it wasn’t until she got some encouragement from ELDI’s affordable homeownership specialist and founder of LifeVenture Real Estate Solutions Mary Hester that she started to take action.

“I said, ‘I’m going to stay on you Kia,’” Hester remembers.

Buchanan began getting all of the elements in place to become a homeowner in 2019, working with Catapult Greater Pittsburgh (Circles Greater Pittsburgh at the time) to fix her credit and learn more about what homeownership entails.

But in June 2020, everything came to a standstill after Buchanan’s son died in a tragic accident.

“I shut down. I was able to take off six months from work, so I shut all the way down,” she said.

Buchanan went back to work in December, but soon after in March 2021, both of her parents fell ill with COVID.

“My mom came home from the hospital after three weeks. My dad stayed for three and a half weeks and never came out,” she said. “That threw me into a deeper depression, because I always knew that when it was time for me to buy a house, my dad was going to be there right beside me helping me fix it up. Then it was like, ‘Nope, I don’t want a house now. My dad ain’t here.’”

A true community effort

That’s when Hester and the ELDI team sprang into action.

“Ms. Mary kept calling me, and I’m like, ‘Alright, I’m going to get my life together,’” Buchanan said.

“Then Ms. Mary got busy and threw Mr. Myron [LifeVenture real estate agent Myron Terry] at me. And he didn’t leave me alone. From the moment she introduced me to Mr. Myron, he would be like, ‘Hey, you got something to do today? We got these houses to see.’”

With limited affordable housing stock in the city, the LifeVenture team began searching the Greater Pittsburgh area. After looking at about 10-15 houses, Buchanan toured a four-bedroom / two-bath home in McKeesport that felt right.

“My kids actually picked it,” she shared. “They love that they have their own bathroom and a yard.”

After using up most of her savings during her bereavement, Buchanan’s next hurdle was finding the funds to cover her closing costs.

“We needed about $8,000 more to close, but after my son and dad dying, I didn’t have that money anymore,” Buchanan said.

That’s where Joe Tomaceski, vice president of community lending at Pittsburgh’s First Commonwealth Bank stepped in. He was able to help secure a $5,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank’s First Front Door program for Buchanan and ELDI provided her with a $3,000 grant to cover the rest.

Throughout the process, Buchanan went through the Catapult D.O.O.R (Developing Ownership Opportunities for Residents) Program several times in preparation for homeownership, working closely with Brettney Duck and Kevette Groomes.

Kia Buchanan receiving an award for "Homeowner of the Year" at the Black Excellence Real Estate Gala in September 2023.

“They were so helpful and patient, even when I wasn’t feeling like I would get through it all,” Buchanan recalls.

On July 28th, representatives from ELDI, First Commonwealth Bank, Catapult, and LifeVenture gathered in ELDI’s board room to celebrate Buchanan’s closing. Years of perseverance and persistence had finally paid off and all that was left was to sign the papers.

“The hardest part was trying to keep my head on after losing my son. It kicked the whole seat out of my pants, but everybody I got connected with was on me,” Buchanan shared. “It was like Ms. Mary let ’em know. If it wasn’t for all of them, I would’ve given up, or it might have taken longer than it did, so I’m very appreciative of all of the help I’ve received. I made it to the finish line.”

So, what’s Buchanan’s advice for others considering homeownership?

“Don’t give up, and don’t settle either. My whole purpose of buying a house was so I wasn’t paying anybody else’s mortgage. But it was also to have something to pass on to my kids, so that they always have somewhere to come back to. My son and dad are watching me, and they would have kicked my butt if I wouldn’t have finished.”

➡ Want to learn more about affordable homeownership opportunities? Reach out to Mary Hester at

➡ Learn more about ELDI’s homeownership efforts in our 2023 Impact Report.