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When Michelle Brandon walked through the doors of a little house on a quiet block in Southeast, she knew it was going to be her new home.

“When I first laid eyes on it, this is the home I wanted out of the gate. It had all the amenities I wanted for me and my daughter,” said Brandon, who finished buying her new home in May. “What really got me when I came in I saw the dining room was separate from the living room...the basement, the room sizes, front yard, back yard. Everything was perfect for me.”

But it's taken Brandon several years to achieve her dream. Brandon, a 20-year voucher customer, took advantage of the District of Columbia Housing Authority’s Family Self-Sufficiency and the Housing Choice Homeownership Voucher programs.

Brandon came into DCHA headquarters on North Capitol Street in Northeast to recertify in 2013. While she was at the HCVP front desk in room 100 she saw the photo of Annie Whren, who became the first HCVP homeowner in 2004. She asked how she could become a homeowner and the receptionist told her to visit the Office of Resident Services to sign up for the Family Self-Sufficiency program. She did and was paired with FSS Coordinator Nichole Blackmon.

“Ms. Blackmon was wonderful, excellent! She put all of her time into whatever you needed. If she didn’t know the answer, she would get it, and return your call,” Brandon said.

The two sat down for a counseling session and Blackmon laid out the guidelines and the various classes she would have to take for the five-year program, Brandon said. First, you needed to have a steady job, which Brandon did working as a school bus driver for the city.

“You have to have your credit clean and you have to keep your job,” Brandon said, listing the requirements. “You have to go to Lydia’s House.”

At Lydia’s House, a community-based organization that is supported by the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, Brandon learned how to build her credit and completed first-time homebuyer classes that prepared her for a future purchase. Once completed, she received a certificate that allowed her to start a Home Purchase Assistance Program application that offers assistance to first-time homebuyers in D.C.

“We really worked with her to focus on her goals,” Blackmon said. “We worked on her credit and finances to make sure those things were in order.”

Blackmon said Brandon graduated from the program in March 2016, much earlier than the five years she was given to accomplish the goals she set for herself.

“She listened to the guidance she was given. She made sacrifices to meet her goals,” Blackmon said. “She got in there and took advantage of the opportunities the program offered.”

Blackmon continued, “She was very tenacious in setting her goals and accomplishing them. She was very serious and very committed. It made it easy to work with her.”

After graduating from the FSS program, she entered the homeownership program.

“When you get to that side you are halfway there,” Brandon said.

DCHA’s Housing Choice Voucher Homeownership Assistance Program navigates customers through  the process to buy a home. Brandon was paired with HCVP Homeownership Coordinator Trinita Tyler. She brought all of the certificates she earned in the FSS program to Tyler and they discussed her next steps. She needed to choose a bank to apply for a mortgage, establish a maintenance fund for future repairs, and select a realtor, among other responsibilities.

Brandon particularly liked the idea of the maintenance fund. Each month she deposits $65 into a special account for it.

“I think it is excellent. Any maintenance that goes wrong, you won’t be sweating or stressing out because the money is there,” she said.

Tyler showed Brandon various houses and communities she could afford to buy in with the help of her HPAP grant and voucher assistance. The homes included eight former single-family homes that DCHA owned and previously used as public housing.

Unlike buying houses on the market, these homes have special federal rules enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Instead of the minimum deposit required by the majority of first-time homebuyer programs in D.C., these houses require the buyer to put down one percent of the selling price, a higher down payment. The homes are offered at affordable prices and must be offered first to former public housing residents then to qualifying HCVP participants, Tyler said. Currently, four houses are in the purchase process with DCHA customers.

Brandon took a tour of these single-family properties with other DCHA customers in the homeownership program.

“I did the walk through of all eight homes and this is the one I fell in love with,” said Brandon as she stood in her new living room. “The home I wanted was just my size—petite.”

Those on the tour who were interested in buying any of the eight houses were told to rate the three they were most interested in as first, second, and third choices.

“I picked my first choice and put it as all three choices,” Brandon said. “That’s what I stuck to. That’s what I prayed on. That’s what I claimed.”

Tyler said the tour group knew it was her house, too.

“No one else had that address on their lists and they had every right to pick it,” Tyler said. “She had every assurance that that house was hers.”

Over the next several months, Brandon worked with the homeownership program and the bank to make the purchase a reality. Once the financing was finished, she got the home inspection. A few things had to be fixed and she got the second inspection.

“Me going through this experience, I can say you have to have patience first and foremost. Once you get patience, everything falls into place,” she said.

Finally Brandon got to do the final walk through before settlement. Tyler was there to support her, she said.

“Ms. Tyler and [her supervisor] Ms. Christian were awesome as far as getting me what I needed to get through the program,” Brandon said.

She continued, “I do love the process you go on. The whole DCHA team, I can say this, they are there for us.”

The settlement on her new home was May 10. She knew it was real when they took the picture after she signed all the necessary documents.

Her 22-year-old daughter was very encouraging.  

“She was very proud of me,” said Brandon. “She said I showed her how to be independent and do what I say out of my mouth; I showed her I can receive it.”

Tyler said Brandon “has a lot to enjoy about her new home.”

“She’s been very, very patient with the process. Her listening and understanding is why she has achieved the goal she set,” Tyler said. “She deserved it. She worked very hard. I never met a client in this program that worked nearly as hard as she has to meet her goal. It was something she wanted from day one.”

Now Brandon has another plan. She is slowly choosing what to pack and what to get rid of before she moves it into her house, taking advantage of the extra month she has at her old home. She then plans to set up the bedrooms first, then work on the living room and dining room, before moving to the basement and backyard.

“I just want the people to know to believe in God and have patience. You will get it if you stick in there,” Brandon said, encouraging others to join the programs.

“All I can say is it is a blessing from God,” she said.

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Michelle Brandon proudly displays the keys to her new home.
Last modified: 6/2/2017 1:27:20 PM