It took Tammy Wolford approximately five years to make her way through the District of Columbia Housing Authority’s Family Self-Sufficiency, Workforce Development, and Homeowners Assistance programs. The result? On Friday, she shook the hands of Mayor Vincent C. Gray and DCHA Executive Director Adrianne Todman as a Northeast homeowner.
“I applied myself. I used all the resources of the program,” said Wolford, an assistant manager at Mandarin Oriental hotel.
Wolford was one of 15 DCHA clients to close on a home in fiscal 2013. DCHA, the mayor, and community partners gathered January 10th to celebrate the hard work and accomplishments of these new homeowners.
“When I turn that key, I feel so self-fulfilled. It was one of my biggest accomplishments,” Wolford told the crowd at the homeownership celebration. “If I can do it, so can you.”
Wolford, a mother of three children ages 11, 13 and 18, worked full-time as an administrative assistant at the University of the District of Columbia while completing coursework towards her bachelor’s degree in business administration. At the same time, she enrolled in the Housing Choice Voucher Program’s (HCVP) Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program.
She graduated from FSS in two and a half years and was already boosting her skills in the Workforce Development Program, which offers job training and counseling. She had honed her talents in the hospitality industry through the program and soon she was an office coordinator at the Mandarin Oriental.
Then she took the plunge into the HCVP Homeownership Assistance Program (HOAP).
“Every single challenge I brought to [FSS service coordinators], they were able to assist me and provide resources for me to fulfill and overcome my challenges,” she said.
Ron Fisher, FSS service coordinator, agreed.
“She just killed the game,” he said. “To our knowledge, she is the only person to do all three programs successfully.”
All 15 homeowners completed HOAP, which provides homeownership training and services, such as credit counseling and financial management. Once clients complete the initial coursework and have a stable job, they work with community partners, such as financial institutions, to go through the lending and mortgage process. More than half of them also complete FSS.
“These customers met goals that are difficult for most people to attain. They took advantage of a program that few in the voucher program would even consider and worked hard to improve their credit, attended first-time homebuyer workshops, developed personal and household budgets, and attended financial literacy workshops,” said HCVP Director Ronald McCoy. “This was all in an effort to realize the American Dream of homeownership.”
The new owners, who were supported every step of the way by DCHA staff and community partners, worked through a multi-year process to make 2013 the most successful year for DCHA clients to close on homes. Since HOAP’s inception, more than 80 families have purchased a home in D.C.
“I think it is a great idea to have families coming from the program learning to become homeowners,” said Orlando Velez, Habitat for Humanity’s manager of housing services, who attended the HOAP event.
Unlike any other housing authority in the country, DCHA set up a new Homeownership Coordinating Committee (HCC), a group of organizations and businesses vested in the community such as Bank of America, Habitat for Humanity, and Marshall Heights Community Development Organization – to name a few, to prepare and support these potential and new homeowners before, during, and after they purchase their home.
“It’s one of DCHA’s goals to have real, measurable results in our programs. And, we certainly have that today. Today’s celebration shows how programs like the Homeownership Assistance Program and the Family Self-Sufficiency program actually help individuals become financially stable,” DCHA Executive Director Adrianne Todman said. “These individuals have graduated from the Housing Choice Voucher Program and are mortgage holders.”