Even though she moved into her new home in October, there are many times Cerissa Correia still does not believe she is a homeowner.
A longtime renter in New Bedford, Cerissa had often thought about owning her own home, but until a friend urged her to consider a fully renovated property for sale through a lottery by the City of New Bedford, Cerissa had not taken the first step of looking at a home.
"My friend told me about this house and told me to go look at it," Cerissa said. "I was going to but didn’t and then I ran into my friend again at my son’s basketball game and she asked me again if I had looked at the home."
This time Cerissa did look at the home, which had been formerly vacant and in serious disrepair. The non-profit PACE Community Housing Corporation had purchased the single-family property through a bank auction. Utilizing financing available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME Investment Partnership Program, the New Bedford Department of Planning, Housing and Community Development provided funding to PACE to completely renovate the property.
The renovations were completed utilizing students in the PACE YouthBuild New Bedford Program. The YouthBuild Program provides educational and vocational training for at risk youth ages 16-24.
The property received new siding, new windows, new roofing, and a fully renovated kitchen with new appliances. The plumbing and electrical systems were upgraded and the heating system includes energy efficient hot water.
Cerissa applied to become eligible for the lottery to purchase the home and soon heard back with good news.
“They called back and said because of my employment and good credit that I qualified for the lottery,’’ she said. “I had always been talking about [owning my own home] and I was always hearing from people asking when I was going to get my own home.’’
When Cerissa, a personal care attendant, won the lottery and subsequently bought the home in a quiet neighborhood, she was somewhat stunned.
"It was a beautiful moment but I was kind of shocked," said the single mother with daughters aged 21 and 2 and a 14-year-old son. “The first night it was so quiet it was a little scary,’’ she laughed. "I had lived in an apartment building for 10 years and I was used to always hearing people. I’m still getting used to having my own home."
Local lenders from the Fall River/ New Bedford Housing Partnership coordinated the lottery and pre-approval process for Cerissa’s home. Southern Massachusetts Credit Union provided Cerissa advantageous financing through MassHousing’s "Buy New Bedford" Mortgage Program.
MassHousing insured the loan with the Agency’s signature MIPlus mortgage insurance, which also provides Cerissa with job-loss protection at no extra cost should she become unemployed. In the event of a job loss, MIPlus will pay the borrower’s principal and interest payments for up to six months while they become reemployed.
The Buy New Bedford program allowed Cerissa to receive a reduced fixed-rate first mortgage and qualify for the mortgage using flexible underwriting guidelines. It also came with lower down payment requirements and Cerissa received down payment assistance through the city. The Buy Cities program was introduced by MassHousing in Gateway Cities, like New Bedford, to help provide homeownership opportunities to residents who have been typically underserved by the conventional mortgage market.
Cerissa said the process went smoothly and she is grateful her family has a place to call its own. "It’s good for people like me," she said. "I’m a single parent and I don’t make a lot of money. But I am only paying $30 more a month on my mortgage than I did for my rent and I have my own home. It was worth doing."