From Partnership to Homeownership

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Whitney Jett is a NOAHH partner family who started her partnership in June 2016. NOAHH will be following her story through the entire partnership and hopefully beyond. Part 2 is about her decision to apply to NOAHH. Click here for part 1.

It’s not uncommon for people to express disbelief at how the Habitat program works. It’s not until they meet someone who has done it that they accept it–and even then, there’s some doubt.

“I thought there was no way this was actually real,” said Whitney Jett, who recently joined NOAHH’s homeownership program. “All you gotta do is just put in some volunteer hours and you get [to buy] a house? That’s it? No down payment? And then the no-interest part came up, and I thought, ‘Wait, what?’ So too good to be true were the first words that came to mind. But first we heard from Tamika, and then we went to the actual presentation in Joe Brown Park. Then I thought it was real. I said, ‘I’m gonna call.'”

Yolanda Nunnery, Whitney’s mother, echoes her daughter’s sentiment: “If it wasn’t for Tamika, though, I don’t think we would have looked into it, because I just couldn’t believe. It’s too good to be true. Seriously, it really is too good to be true.”

Since entering the New Orleans Habitat homeownership program, Whitney has heard her own skeptical response repeated by her friends. Most of them seem to be waiting to see how her time in the program works out before they apply, but some are seriously considering it. Tamika Kennedy, who owns a Habitat home, told Whitney and her mother about how it worked and convinced them to try it. Several months later, Whitney is in NOAHH’s homeownership program and has now finished over 60 sweat equity hours. As she continues the program, Whitney is doing for her friends what Tamika did for her: proving that the Habitat program really works.

“I think that’s kinda what’s going on right now with the people I am telling about the program,” Whitney said, launching into a hypothetical conversation. “They’re sitting there saying, ‘Wait. No interest? How do they make money? Do they make a profit off of this?’ I told them, ‘I don’t think so. I think they just kinda sell it at cost. I don’t know what happens.’ ‘But what bank is gonna do–?’ ‘I don’t know! I don’t know how they got this deal.'”

To answer Whitney’s hypothetical questions:

All NOAHH homeowners have a 0% interest mortgage on their homes. That is split between the standard mortgage (which covers the cost of the home) and a soft second mortgage (which covers the value of the home minus the construction cost of the home). The value of the home is determined by an appraiser hired by NOAHH. The soft second mortgage is forgiven over time as the homeowner continues paying for and living in the home.

We make no profit and charge no interest. The money for building homes comes from the mortgages of other New Orleans Habitat homes, from donations, from funds raised through our ReStore, and other sources. NOAHH is the mortgage originator–the loan comes from our affiliate–but the mortgages are processed by Fidelity Bank, who have supported local homeownership since their founding in 1908. The monthly payments are kept affordable because of our soft second mortgages and because of volunteer and donor support.

What truly makes our homeownership program possible, though, are our partner families. Partner families pay their mortgages, which help fund the construction of more homes. Partner families understand the importance of homeownership and serve as the heart of our program. Partner families sign up for the program and do the hard work of sweat equity, work alongside volunteers and show the universal value of homeownership, and spread the word to their friends, families, even strangers in the street.

In the case of Tamika Kennedy, she told one of her clients at work, and the client (Yolanda) went home to tell her daughter. What seemed “too good to be true” is now proving to be all too real. Whitney made the call…