LINCOLN COUNTY — While sharing a one-bedroom apartment with her son for four years, with the rent increasing by $300 each year, Jessica Dippolito wasn’t making enough — working full-time — to combat costs and save for a downpayment on a home. As of October, she finally has a house of her own, thanks to one of the eight down-payment assistance grants that Proud Ground is facilitating for low-income families.
“I didn’t want to move outside of the [City of Lincoln City] city limits,” she said. “It’s the best thing ever to just live in town, by work and the school. It really makes a difference, especially in the summer when everyone is heading to the coast and you’re just trying to get to and from work. This has taken a huge weight off my shoulders.”
Proud Ground is a multi-faceted agency, working as both an HUD-approved education and counseling agency, and operating the largest community land trust in the Pacific northwest. The company absorbed the Lincoln Community Land Trust in January, giving them a great capacity to serve the county — for example, by helping match applicants with grants and finding them homes. The goal of all of this is to make affordable housing more accessible — a down-payment assistance grant of $70,000 made purchasing her first home a dream that Dippolito could achieve, and fast.
“The affordable housing crisis is certainly and most importantly about getting people off the streets, and we all support that,” said Diane Linn, the executive director of Proud Ground. “It the same time, we want to help people understand how important it is to support and invest in the game-changing experience of working families being able to own their own homes. Because once that happens, they’re done, they’re good to go, they’re thriving. We haven’t lost one home to foreclosure, even through the recession.”
These grants are funded by Gov. Kate Brown’s Workforce Housing Initiative, as well as cooperation and contribution from major employers in the county, including the municipalities of Lincoln County, Newport and Lincoln City, as well as Lincoln County Schools, Samaritan Hospitals and Chinook Winds.
“This is the one model we’ve been able to find,” said County Commissioner Claire Hall, who now sits on Proud Ground’s Board of Directors, “that’s going to provide homeownership needs to teachers, nurses, public safety people — working families who don’t have a chance at homeownership now.”
There are eight grants which Proud Ground is facilitating, three of which have already been awarded or are in contract.
The grant amounts range from $71,000 to $101,000 and are based on household income. There are a number of other requirements to qualify for a grant as well, including being a first-time homebuyer and possessing $4,000 of personal money for earnest money and inspections.
When Dippolito found the right fit in a two-bedroom cottage in Lincoln City, the grant not only gave her buying power to get her offer accepted, but also made her mortgage affordable.
One of the great advantages to working with Proud Ground, Linn explained, is having a life-long partnership — even if families move houses in the future. And each home selected for purchase through Proud Ground is evaluated to make sure that they are sustainable for life, using metrics like energy efficiency and the quality of the foundation.
Those interested in applying for a grant can learn more at www.proudground.com and are encouraged to visit one of the upcoming informational sessions on March 7: from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. in the Lincoln City Council Chambers, and from 3 to 4 p.m. in the Newport City Council Chambers.
For Linn, one of the most rewarding things about working on these grants is getting to provide children with a stable environment to grow up in.
“This is what we’re talking about, in a perfect world: stabilizing kids and community,” said Linn. “It’s such a big part of this.”
That’s exactly what this grant helped Dippolito to do. In their new, two-bedroom home, Dippolito and her son, Evangel, are rooted in the community and face less financial stress while living in a bigger space — one with a backyard, to boot.
“We have way more room,” said Dippolito. “Our own bedrooms and a yard for Evangel to play in. We have the independence to live our own lives in the privacy of our own home.”