Two years ago, First Story’s executive director, Claire Duncan, approached the local nonprofit NeighborImpact with an exciting and unique partnership idea to bring affordable housing to Sisters, Oregon. NeighborImpact's HomeSource director, Sonia Capece, was instantly interested in joining forces. A natural fit, since both nonprofits are focused on bringing opportunities for homeownership to their communities, this partnership would be, as Sonia called it, a “win-win-win, one for First Story, one for NeighborImpact, and one for the community at large.”
Sisters was an ideal location because of the area’s rapidly rising home prices. Many people who work in the community are having a hard time remaining, and this program was geared towards those very applicants – individuals and families with ties to the area. With that in mind, this partnership really was a perfect meeting of the minds. As Sonia explained, “First Story focuses on development and we [NeighborImpact] focus on getting people mortgage ready and learning about the homeownership process. But we have the same end goal – getting more people to have a home of their own.” These different specialties worked together beautifully, with all of our home applicants completing NeighborImpact’s HomeBuyer Education class and a counseling session to qualify for a home. Jeff Belzer, a HomeSource financial coach, recommends these courses to anyone looking to achieve homeownership, highlighting the fact that after the initial course NeighborImpact can do one-on-one coaching to develop a personalized plan for clients, identifying what steps they can take for homeownership, from building credit to strengthening savings.
In 2022 this project will be coming to a close when we dedicate our final two homes in Sisters, for a total of 8 families over two years. As we near the finish line, both First Story and NeighborImpact see the partnership as a smashing success. With these working families able to build permanent homes in Sisters, it strengthens the fabric of the community. As Sonia said, “that’s why things like First Story are really crucial. We need communities that are whole.” Jeff recalled that what he enjoyed most about working with First Story was not only bringing hope through affordable homeownership, but the ability to look at each applicant from an individualized perspective. Meredith Berrigan, a NeighborImpact HomeSource navigator, sees the end of this partnership as “sad, but also joyful because it means we did our job and got people into homes that they may not have gotten into.”
NeighborImpact is doing amazing work in our Central Oregon communities and we hope this was just the start of what we can achieve together!