Making it possible for low-income people to purchase a home is the goal of Blue Valley Community Action’s CROWN (Credits to OWN) project. The first CROWN project took place in 1999 in Beatrice; it brought people from homelessness to permanent housing. Since 1999 the Beatrice project has moved four families into homeownership. The Blue Valley Community Action Partnership receives part of its funding from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. The objectives of the program are to construct safe and decent housing, make homes affordable for low-income families, develop partnerships, offer a plan toward homeownership, and restore neighborhoods. Prior to moving into the homes, the people were facing barriers such as, lack of income, poor credit, scarce housing options and the quality of the available housing. Once they have moved into the dwellings the inhabitants can work on removing the barriers to owning their own home.
To be eligible for a CROWN project one must be of 50-60% median income, participate in a continuous development program and be able to pay current rent levels and utilities. The prospective homeowner must comply with the following criteria: the home must continue to be affordable for 15 years, the homeowner puts $50 per month into an escrow for future use as closing costs or downpayment to purchase a new home. If the family fulfills the obligations they have the option to purchase the home. To keep the residents active in their neighborhood, quarterly meetings are held in order to receive feedback regarding maintenance, insurance, budgeting, goal setting and education for future homebuyers.
Recipients of the housing have been grateful to the program for giving them a second chance and hopes of someday becoming a homeowner. One family says, “Thank-you is not enough to express our happiness, without this program me, my husband, and our six children would still be struggling with acceptable and affordable housing that meets our needs.”
They go on to say that they someday hope to own the house and they have many happy memories in their CROWN home. Another participant in the program was injured and could not work. Due to their acceptance to the program, they were able to keep a roof over their head. In the Beatrice project, a single mother and her child were chosen to participate. They were uprooted from their previous home, and for a while lived in the Fairbury shelter, while there she learned about the CROWN program. She says, “I think back now and find myself in awe. Being left homeless and then to be one chosen to move into a new home was not only a dream but also unbelievable.” She continues on to say, “I can only say that the chance that my son and I have been given is a once in a lifetime deal.”
Through the funding from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and the allocation by Blue Valley Community Action the recipients of this program are grateful for their new home. The program gives the people an opportunity to move toward homeownership and they take pride in their new home. This program has not only improved the housing stock in the area, it has helped numerous individuals to have a new outlook on life.