Lowell, Mass., is a vibrant multicultural city flavored with Hispanics, Cambodians, Brazilians, and, recently, Burmese. Buying a home would be a completely overwhelming experience for many of its new arrivals were it not for the Merrimack Valley Housing Partnership, a nonprofit housing agency whose services include “Project Genesis,” a 10-hour soup-to-nuts home buying course that touches on everything from applying for a mortgage to budgeting.
“The biggest obstacle for immigrants is that they simply don’t know a lot about buying a house, and most didn’t own a home in their native country,” explains Jim Wilde, the Partnership’s executive director. “We’re educating people so they can feel empowered.”
More than 11,000 people have taken this course during the 17 years the Partnership has offered it in English, Spanish, and Khmer. The program, says Wilde, has had an extremely low foreclosure rate among its students. None of the last 500 people who took the course have foreclosed on their loans.
The Partnership has been a godsend for 34-year-old Tooch Van, who arrived from Cambodia 11 years ago and is now a student advisor at Middlesex Community College. Besides the course, the Partnership helped Van find the three-bedroom townhouse with a small yard he bought last December for $136,000.
The Partnership administers a down-payment assistance program of up to $10,000 per household. Van secured $4,000 in down-payment assistance from the Lowell Development Financial Corp. He got a 30-year fixed mortgage with a 4 percent interest rate through the Massachusetts Housing Partnership that is financing 90 percent of his purchase. Enterprise Bank is financing the other 10 percent through a “soft” second mortgage that’s interest-free for the first 10 years and 5 percent after that.
All told, Van and his wife Chorvy, who just gave birth to their first child, pay $987 per month, compared to the $850 per month Van had been paying in rent. “Owning a house is so much better,” he says.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Boston, MA.