Strategic Connections and Housing Education in District 12

Photo of the side of a house that is made of gray wood with a stair case in front of it. The wall of the house has a window with blue shutters. Over top of the photo is the title of the blog post "Strategic Connections & Housing Education in District 12."

This month we’re highlighting Terry Clark-Jones’ strategic connections with the Washtenaw Housing Education Partnership (WHEP) in District 12. Terry is a Michigan State University (MSU) Extension senior educator who provides programming on two work teams: Financial and Home Ownership Education, and Social Emotional Health.

MSU Extension was a founding member of WHEP in 2001, a partnership designed to bring together housing education providers. The group formed as a response to increased educational requirements of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) for their affordable housing programs.

Why is housing education important?

“For many potential first-time home buyers, the challenge is coming up with the up-front funds it takes to purchase a home,” Terry said. “It’s important to educate the consumer of the affordable housing programs available to them, such as Michigan State Housing Department Authority Down Payment Assistance, Federal Housing Authority, USDA Rural Development Loans, Habitat for Humanity and the Federal Home Loan Bank Home Ownership Opportunity program.  These programs also require that potential first-time home buyers participate in this education. Research done by Freddie Mac and NeighborWorks show that homeowners who participate in these classes are less likely to foreclose.”

Now, in 2017, the partnership is still going strong, growing from three to eight organizations: Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley, the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development, POWER Inc., Housing Bureau for Seniors, the Washtenaw County treasurer’s office, the Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors and MSU Extension. How it works: participants are welcomed and registered through MSU Extension, then they attend our home ownership education classes, and then they move on to the other partner organizations depending on their needs. WHEP has made affordable housing education and programs a seamless process to provide the best and most custom service to prospective buyers.

“This partnership has created many opportunities, including referrals, increased grant funding opportunities, visibility in the community and leads to new partnerships beyond housing education,” Terry said. One funding opportunity helped to create an affordable housing program in Washtenaw County. Because of the partnership, the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development received a federal grant to create a special affordable housing program in the county. It was a rehab/acquisition program where participants in a targeted income range could purchase a home and receive up to $35,000 in assistance to help with repairs and a down payment. If they stayed in the home for 20 years, the loan would be forgiven. This program lasted 18 months and helped about 30 families.

Through working with WHEP, Terry has learned that building and maintaining partnerships take a lot of work.

“Partnerships are hard to keep going and productive,” she said. “Their success can be decided by the personalities at the table. But with time and a common goal, it can be a great experience with awesome outcomes.”

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