Jim Donaldson built a house in Hazel Green over 30 years ago and only lived in it for five years before moving away.
Although he made the move to be closer to work, Donaldson said it was a decision he always regretted. Living as a renter ever since, the retired Intergraph employee wondered if he could ever be a homeowner again.
“I was always concerned at this point in my life – being 67 years old – if I could ever do this,” he said. “But, along the journey, I heard about other people being able to buy homes even later in life than this, so that was an inspiration to me.”
Back in May, Donaldson began the process of buying a home once again. With an available loan of up to $99,000, the Huntsville native’s options didn’t quite meet up with his expectations.
Then one day, he found a new model home he loved and could afford under construction near Sonnie Hereford Elementary in north Huntsville. With help from Family Services Center’s HOME program, Donaldson closed on the house in late October and began moving in a short time later.
Now, settling into his bungalow, Craftsman-style home, Donaldson is happier and more hopeful than ever.
“Buying this house gave me the opportunity to learn how to buy a house and how to keep a house,” he said. “I did a lot of legwork on my own, a lot of research and a lot of reading.”
Huntsville Housing Expo – Saturday, November 14
Donaldson’s story isn’t unusual. Thanks to Family Services Center, the City of Huntsville’s Community Development Department and other area resources, more people are becoming homeowners when they thought they never could.
Assisting potential and first-time homeowners is one of the reasons Community Development is hosting its annual Huntsville Housing Expo on Saturday, November 14, from 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Designed to demystify the home-buying process, the event will feature a series of live and pre-recorded workshops on topics ranging from aging-friendly housing to addressing the barriers to Fair Housing.
“The Housing Expo aims to provide a one-stop-shop for critical resources as it relates to housing,” said Turkessa Coleman, event organizer and a planner with Community Development. “If you’re a first-time homebuyer or a senior or anything in between, this will be the place you can come to and gain the resources that you need.”
Free to the public, the Housing Expo will include a virtual exhibit hall offering resources for homeowners, renters, residents facing foreclosure, residents seeking credit counseling, small business owners, seniors, youth and veterans.
Because of COVID-19, this year’s event will be all-virtual. With a new, user-friendly website and the ability to re-watch sessions and interact virtually with panelists, more Huntsville residents can get the information they need to make their home-buying dreams a reality.
“The mission of Community Development is strengthening our local neighborhoods,” said Scott Erwin, manager of Community Development for the City. “We come together all throughout the year, but especially at this particular time, so we can link and showcase what we are doing.”
Another Success Story
Brenda Moore has worked her entire life, so when a health crisis forced her to leave her job a couple of years ago, her world was shattered.
After being dislocated, Moore turned to Family Services Center’s LIFT Housing Program, a low-cost, income-based emergency shelter for homeless individuals and families in Huntsville. In addition to short-term shelter, LIFT helps prepare residents to move toward affordable housing with the goal of achieving permanent housing by the program’s end.
Moore, who recently transitioned out of the emergency shelter into affordable housing, plans to use her newfound financial empowerment skills to become a homeowner through Family Services Center’s HOME program in 6-12 months.
“Once you have a health situation and you’ve been working all your life … doors start closing,” she said. “You don’t qualify for this. You can no longer afford that. This is a program that sticks with you for literally a lifetime because the information they give you is so valuable. It teaches you lessons that will help you in the long-run.”
Moore said one of her biggest takeaways from attending Family Services Center’s programming is being prepared for unplanned expenses.
“Being a homeowner, you’re like, ‘What happens when the unexpected happens?'” she said. “Family Services Center can’t tell you every single thing you may encounter, but you will surely be prepared if there was an emergency to arrive. You will be in a little bit of a better position to handle it.”
Inspired by Donaldson and Moore’s stories? If you’d like to explore your homeownership options in Huntsville – or simply learn more about the housing process – be sure to pre-register by 5 p.m. November 13 for the Huntsville Housing Expo (hint – you’ll be eligible to win a door prize if you do).
For more information, please visit HuntsvilleAL.gov/housingexpo.