ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – As Florida’s population booms and home prices soar, achieving the American dream can seem further away for first-time homebuyers. And that problem can be exacerbated for people with low income and bad credit.
Habitat for Humanity Greater Orlando & Osceola County is working to get results and help people become homebuyer ready.
Tanisha Williams gave News 6 a tour of what will soon be her home.
“This is going to be the living room and the kitchen area there,” Williams said as she pointed to the foundation.
It may not be much right now, but it will soon support Williams’ dreams.
“I literally prayed so many nights to come to this moment,” she said.
The single mother of four said she always wanted to own her own home, especially since her rent keeps rising.
“My rent goes up every 3 to 4 months,” Williams said.
She started working with Habitat for Humanity Greater Orlando & Osceola County at the end of 2019. She was told she didn’t qualify for a new home due to her debt and credit score, but her dream wasn’t coming to an end just yet.
Williams joined a new mentorship program Habitat for Humanity Greater Orlando & Osceola County launched right before the pandemic began. It’s called the Home Buyer Ready Program.
It helps potential clients who were initially denied get their finances together. The families spend up to a year and a half working with a mentor to get them ready.
Catherine Steck McManus, the president and CEO for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando & Osceola County, said that includes improving their credit score or employment and lowering their debt.
“Anything that we can help them to do to really make themselves more financially feasible,” Steck McManus said.
Steck McManus said since launching the mentorship program two years ago, they helped nearly 20 families join Habitat for Humanity. But she said she knows they need to do more to combat the growing affordable housing crisis in Central Florida.
“We can only build so many homes a year,” she said.
The nonprofit is in the process of becoming a certified HUD housing counselor, which will give them the opportunity to mentor 1,200 people a year. They will be able to help those mentees find a home best for them, even if it’s outside the Habitat program.
Steck McManus said that is doubling how many people they’re currently serving.
“You can really see how we’re multiplying our ability to move the needle on housing here in Central Florida,” she said.
Steck McManus hopes to have the expanded program up and running by the end of the year.
That’s also around the same time Williams will be settling into her new home. She said she’s most excited about decorating her first Christmas tree in her hew house and making memories.
“To be in your own home and have that first Christmas just absolutely means everything,” Williams said.
Click here to learn more about the Home Buyer Ready Program or you can call Habitat for Humanity Greater Orlando & Osceola County at 407-648-4567.