Guest commentary Acts Housing helps home ownership in Beloit

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For Wisconsin's low-income families, the dream of owning a home is often just that - a dream. But where home ownership once seemed out of reach for many families, Acts Housing has spent the last 24 years supporting families in turning home ownership from a dream into a reality.

Since 1995, Acts Housing has helped more than 2,600 families purchase homes in the Milwaukee area. Now, for the first time, we are building on this success and expanding our efforts to Beloit, with the goal of helping 150 additional families achieve the dream of home ownership.

Too often, lower-income families are at the mercy of landlords who are bad actors, charging high rents and not maintaining their properties. By owning a home and paying a mortgage instead of renting, families are often able to cut their housing costs in half, enabling them to create savings and better their lives.

Not long ago, Beloit resident Christina and her two teenage sons were homeless and living in a shelter. After a supportive program of the Beloit Housing Authority and then Acts Housing, Christina was just this month able to purchase a tax foreclosed home, something she once thought was impossible.

"I had every obstacle in my way to home ownership and I did it. If I can do it, anyone can do it. It feels amazing, it just feels amazing," Christina says.

Before she can move in, Christina's home needs a working bathroom, water heater, electricity and a kitchen sink. With Acts rehab guidance, and Christina's tenacity, her home repairs are already well under way. She and her sons are expected to move into their new home in the Hackett neighborhood in a matter of weeks.

Like Christina's, many families who work with Acts purchase distressed homes that are in need of rehabilitation. While some of the work on these homes requires licensed contractors, much of it can be done by the families themselves, which they are more than happy to do. For these homeowners, they see these houses not for what they are when they purchase them, but for the homes they can be.

When families do some sweat work as a part of the rehab process, costs are driven down significantly. Typically, Acts lends $30,000 to $50,000 for the total purchase and rehab of the home. And with the money families are saving as compared to renting, they are making it a priority to make timely mortgage payments. Nearly 99% of Acts loans are paid on time.

Home ownership does more than benefit the families. It also strengthens communities.

By rehabilitating these houses in neighborhoods that are challenged, families are breathing new life into the city and changing the narrative about home ownership.

The need in the Beloit community is strong. The support from the community is strong. And these families who become homeowners are strong - changing the narrative about what is possible in our community. We are so proud to be a part of it.

Michael Gosman is the Executive Director of Acts Housing.

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