Helping first-time buyers with the ‘miracle’ of homeownership

December 01, 2021

U.S. Bank has a longstanding relationship with Phoenix-based Trellis, including providing down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers. 

Shortly after the birth of her sixth grandchild, Rosa became a first-time homeowner.

“It’s like a miracle [to own my own house],” said Rosa, who lives with her daughter, a student at Arizona State University, and her infant granddaughter. “After a hard day of work, I love to come home to my special place and relax and enjoy the peacefulness of my bedroom.”

Rosa was able to land her home thanks to Trellis, a Phoenix-based nonprofit that provides home ownership counseling, financial assistance and neighborhood development. She’s one of more than 3,800 homeowners that Trellis helped create during its 46-year history. The organization does this by educating the most vulnerable and underserved members of the community in the fundamentals of mortgage lending, connecting them with public and private down payment assistance programs, and assisting them through the home-buying process.

Homeownership has the potential to change a family’s fortunes for generations, said Patricia Garcia Duarte, President & CEO at Trellis, and increasing homeownership among people of color is one way to help narrow the wealth gap. Nationwide, more than 73% of white Americans owned their own home in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, compared to 47.5% among Hispanic or Latino Americans. U.S. Bank has been a longtime supporter of Trellis, including providing a $50,000 investment last year to help provide a down payment assistance pool to support first-time homebuyers of color like Rosa.

“Owning a house can be transformational. A home is an asset, and there are so many things you can do with that asset – pass it along to your children and grandchildren, or use the equity to start a business,” Duarte said. “This down payment assistance fund from U.S. Bank allows to us make a huge impact, one person at a time.”

The U.S. Bank investment in Trellis last year is part of a long-term engagement with the organization and part of larger Rebuild & Transform fund the U.S. Bank Foundation distributed in several markets across the country, including Phoenix, to help address systematic economic and racial inequities and invest in organizations that are driving access to economic mobility. U.S. Bank employees have been involved with Trellis through board and committee service, providing first-time homebuyer education classes and providing mortgages to their clients. Trellis was a natural fit for the Rebuild & Transform funds because the lack of affordable housing disproportionally affects first-time homebuyers of color, said Arturo Pérez, the U.S. Bank community affairs manager in Phoenix and a nearly 10-year board member at Trellis.

“Trellis fills an urgent need in Arizona, where more than one in four Hispanic residents are living in poverty without access to affordable housing – and that crisis is only going to become worse as eviction moratoriums lift,” Pérez said.

As with many markets across the U.S., home prices in Phoenix have accelerated beyond the reach of many low- to moderate-income first-time buyers – hitting an average of $405,000 in July, up nearly 29% from a year earlier. Finding, let alone affording, a home is incredibly challenging in the price range for first-time homebuyers. At times, the inventory is almost non-existent, Duarte said.

“Our message to our clients is that this is a great time to continue and save and pay down debt and improve your credit score,” she said. “That way you’ll be ready to take advantage of the right opportunity when it comes along.”

That’s the strategy Rosa followed, setting aside money for years while working for the City of Phoenix, a job she’s held for more than 20 years. She made offers on nine homes this spring before finally going under contract on a townhouse in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale. Her offer included $7,500 in down payment assistance from the U.S. Bank grant in addition to other funds for first-time homebuyers.

Rosa, who is the mother of three and grandmother of six, eventually plans to retire and hopes to be able to spend some of that time visiting her siblings in Sonora, Mexico. But for now, she’s focused on enjoying her new home and her family that fills it with joy.

“On weekends, I just love to stay home and enjoy my own house,” she said.

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