It Pays to Support Responsible Homeownership

Doing your part to help other Americans gain a foothold on the homeownership ladder does not just help them. You’ll benefit both your community and your own pocketbook.

When people move from renting to owning a home, they’re more likely to vote, get involved in community groups, and care about their home’s appearance. The children of homeowners do 23% better in school, according to a 2001 study by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. And a steady flow of first-time homebuyers makes it easier to sell your own starter home when you’re ready to move up to a larger property.

Make housing affordable

One way to make more people homeowners is to make housing more affordable. All U.S. homeowners benefit from policies like the mortgage interest tax deduction. Many use government-backed mortgage insurance to lower loan costs. A variety of public and private programs offer low-cost loans and down payment assistance to help Americans become homeowners. There are resources that help prospective homeowners save a down payment like the website EARN, a non-profit that uses donations to match funds saved by low-wage earners.

Reduce foreclosures and preserve home value

Foreclosure matters because it hurts all homeowners. Foreclosures cause property values to decline. Each foreclosure within 1/8th of a mile of your home lowers your property value about 0.744 percent, the Center for Responsible Lending says.

One effective tool against foreclosure is educating homeowners before they buy. The Joint Center found that loan delinquencies fell 13% with homeownership counseling. People who go through pre-purchase and post-purchase counseling and learn about mortgages, family budgeting, and home maintenance are less apt to face foreclosure.

Support groups that help homeowners

One way you can help other homeowners is by donating your time or money to some of the many non-profits that promote responsible homeownership. Habitat for Humanity partners with new homeowners to build affordable housing. Habitat homes are not free. Homeowners work hundreds of hours, get homeownership counseling, and make mortgage payments. The United Way supports many local programs that build affordable housing, help families build financial assets, and teach financial management skills. If you donate to United Way, you can direct your contribution to those causes. There are also various federal, state, and local programs that help create homeowners and expand responsible and affordable homeownership.

How to get involved

You can support responsible homeownership in many ways. Retired construction contractors France and Bill Moriarity travel the country in their RV managing Habitat construction projects. “We like it because it’s a hand up, not a hand out,” France Moriarity says. Habitat volunteers don’t need construction skills and can sign up to work as little as one day at a time. Groups can volunteer together. Organizations like Rebuilding Together and NeighborWorks America sponsor once yearly volunteer events that help lower-income homeowners repair their homes.

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