Gregory Scott recently told attendees of a housing conference in the District about the joys and hard work that come with home ownership. He talked about building his credit and working with the banks to solidify his loan. Now he is patiently waiting for his closing day.
But Scott’s story is far more gripping than most people’s. Scott once lived in the Third Street Tunnel.
“On May 19, 2005, I decided to do something with my life,” he told the crowd at the 2015 U.S. Housing and Urban Development Moving to Work Conference. “I went into a 12-step program. I told then, ‘Please, given the opportunity, I won’t let you down,’” Scott said, recounting his story.
Through the program and shelter, he learned of the District of Columbia Housing Authority. DCHA was able to house Scott and soon he was applying for the DCHA’s AYBL (Achieving Your Best Life) program.
AYBL was created in 2011, and modeled after a similar homeownership program for Housing Choice Voucher Program participants. Public housing clients earning at least $32,000 could apply to be a part of the program that teaches how to establish and increase credit and first-time home buying classes, among other topics, over a five-year period.
“Our customers may not know what Moving to Work (MTW) is, but they know what Moving to Work has done,” said DCHA Executive Director Adrianne Todman to the crowd.
Thanks to the flexibility of MTW, DCHA has done “practical things to respond to our work on the ground,” Todman said.
That includes dedicating two housing sites to families who dedicate their time and effort to economic self-sufficiency. A portion of the client’s rent paid goes into an escrow account, while the small remainder goes towards future home maintenance.
Already two individuals were able to purchase a home before the five-year period was completed – and five more are expected to within the next 180 days, including Scott, said Ron Fisher, manager of DCHA’s Family Self-Sufficiency program. On average, an AYBL resident makes $43,000 and has $27,000 in escrow, Fisher said.
Fisher said community partners help teach classes and work with clients to achieve their dream of owning a home. Lydia’s House is one of those partners.
“I don’t care where you started. It is where you end up,” said Yolanda Queen, a housing counselor at Lydia’s House. “We meet [people] where they are and get them to the position where they can purchase. It comes with an extreme and pleasurable result.”
Scott said Queen helped him learn how to save money, how to use checks, and credit cards. Scott, also a 2014 recipient of Marriott International’s Awards of Excellence , said once he is in his house he will enroll in a computer class.
“Given the opportunity, I won’t let you down,” Scott said to a standing ovation.
Todman said, “What MTW really is about is Mr. Scott.”