Foundation Grant Helps Make the Impossible Possible

“We have been in our home for a little over a year now, and at times it’s still hard to believe,” says Brady Bennett. “The feeling of pride, security, and stability that comes from owning a home is immense, and that’s what this program has given us.”  Bennett is referring to the No-Down Payment Mortgage loan program offered by his credit union, Central Willamette Credit Union, based in Albany, OR.

Thanks to a $100,000 grant from the GoWest Foundation, Central Willamette CU was able to develop a unique product with an educational program that could deliver on the dream of home ownership to families like the Bennetts.  “The Foundation’s support allowed us to kickstart a program that would otherwise have been budgetarily prohibited,” says Central Willamette Marketing Manager Erik Fedler.

The Foundation grant was designed to help the credit union explore ways to increase access to home ownership for the local workforce.  Over the last several years, home and rental prices in Central Willamette Valley had risen so dramatically that the local workforce was forced to move further and further away from their place of work to find affordable housing.  The price of new housing construction had also skyrocketed.

With the grant funding, the credit union conducted a demographic study that validated that housing costs were outpacing income levels.  “We also found that many of the rental options were worse than the financial pressures of buying a home,” says Fedler.  “We needed to try to reframe how people could get access to permanent housing.” The credit union created a new no-down payment mortgage product and hired staff to provide housing finance education, as well as identified community partners who could help make the right match between buyers and homes.

Bennett, who works for Central Willamette CU as a Senior Training and Development Specialist, learned about the product just as it was being introduced.  “At the time, my family of 6 (plus 2 cats and a Labrador) was renting a 2-bedroom apartment and not finding anything else rentable in the area. Housing prices were getting higher, and bidding wars over the available homes were a common occurrence. We had saved a little and thought we may be able to come up with a 3% down payment on a house, though that would deplete most of our resources. It was a stressful position to be in, to say the least, and ultimately, we had all but decided purchasing a home was not a possibility.”

The new product, thanks to the GoWest Foundation’s grant, made the impossible possible for the buyer and the credit union.“We put the majority of the grant funding toward loan loss reserves,” says Fedler.  “It was a security blanket of sorts for us because we were lending at 100% of the value of the home.  We had expected to see some losses up front.  But we found that the borrowers have done really well with this type of loan.  We have not seen any defaults.  I think it’s because they are so grateful because we took a chance on them.  It encourages loyalty.”

When Bennett learned that his family would qualify for the new product, he thought it was too good to be true.  Now, the new homeowner has a message for others who might be similarly skeptical: “Before you resign to the idea homeownership isn’t possible, look into the no-money down home loan program. I’m living proof it can turn a dream into reality.”

Fedler says the Foundation is good at turning dreams into reality.  Several years ago, he received a Foundation scholarship to help continue his own education, and he benefited from GoWest leadership development programs.   His credit union has partnered with the Foundation to host Financial Reality Fairs in local high schools, and received rural access grants to place ATMs in rural medical facilities.

“Being aware of the possibilities and opportunities for Foundation funding is critical to strengthening the impact we can have in our community,” says Fedler.  To learn more about applying for a GoWest Foundation grant, connect with the Foundation or reach out to Foundation Strategic Initiatives Manager Nayab Abbasi to learn more about partnering to strengthen credit union impact in communities.

Posted in All Articles, Community Impact, Foundation, Workforce Housing.