At the Land Trust program, affordable housing and quality living go hand in hand.
When Dolores Watson began looking into homeownership in 2007, she assumed an older fixer-upper would be the only option she could afford. As a first time homeowner, her list was short; she wanted a short commute to her job at local nonprofit Earth Day Coalition, a price that would fit her tight budget, and, as a self-proclaimed tree-hugger, an energy efficient home would be a nice plus. She says of her situation, “working for a small nonprofit you never make very much money. So money was a big issue. I had to be very very budget conscious.
It was when a friend from her office building told Dolores about the Land Trust program that her dream of buying a quality affordable home started to become a reality. She recalls, “When I was in my search for a house, the Land Trust houses were made known to me . . . and not only that it would be an affordable house but that it would be extremely energy efficient and very sustainable. I just thought, ‘That sounds like my house,’ so I jumped on board as soon as I could.”
Before moving into her Land Trust home, Dolores participated in homebuyer education classes and counseling at Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland (NHS). Prior to working with the Land Trust, Dolores explains, “I had not owned a house on my own before. I had sort of co-owned a house with somebody but then because my name wasn’t on the deed, it was never seen as being my house. I put a lot of money and a lot of work into that house and never got anything back out it. This was a completely different experience.”
When asked if the homebuyer classes were helpful for her transition into homeownership she exclaimed, “Absolutely! Absolutely!” Dolores goes on to speak about her experience with NHS’ homebuyer education specialists Liz Sanchez and Mahria Harris, “They were very helpful. They just gave us all kinds of information that I had no idea about; how to deal with bankers, how to look up property in the city and county records. There were just lots of things that I had no idea how to negotiate and I learned in those classes.”
After completing homeownership classes, Dolores was ready to move into a new home that exceeded all of her expectations. She recounts, “I could never have afforded to buy a brand new house. And this one, when everything was done and all the paperwork was done, it turned out to be the first LEED platinum certified house in the city of Cleveland. I could have never afforded that without the Land Trust. I’m very happy about the whole program.”
LEED, or leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a certification program for green buildings. Aside from producing a minuscule carbon footprint. LEED homes are built with high quality insulation along with low-flow shower heads, faucets, and toilets that result in lower utility bills. Not only does the LEED certification help further the affordability of the home but it also satisfies Dolores’ passion for living sustainably.
Beyond an affordable home, the Land Trust program helped Dolores relocate to her ideal neighborhood. A major difference in her immediate everyday life was a shorter commute to work. She explains the convenience, “I could walk. I could ride my bike. Even if it was raining and I did have to drive, it was only a mile. . . That saved a lot. What really made a difference was my location.
Soon after her move, Dolores also discovered that she was now a member of a tight-knit community of friendly neighbors. Comparing her old neighborhood to the community surrounding the Land Trust home, Dolores says, “That didn’t seem to be very prevalent where I used to live. I was close with a few next-door neighbors but I didn’t know neighbors four streets over or six streets down. We didn’t get together and have block club meetings. This community seems much more cohesive and I know it’s because we all work at it, it doesn’t just happen by itself. But there’s a lot of people here who are willing to work at it and I’m very very happy to have found that.”
“I was just so happy to be living here,” Dolores remembers of her first few months as a homeowner. Research shows that struggling to find quality affordable housing is often tied to high levels of stress, social isolation, and even depression. Dolores felt a shift in her everyday well-being after moving into her Land Trust Home. She concludes of the change she felt, “it definitely was a psychological issue. To be living in this house, this neighborhood with such great neighbors, and so close to where I work, everything was just all coming together and I really liked that. It’s nice to have so many different things in the community that I can take advantage of and be a part of. I feel very at home.”
The Land Trust program was certainly the right fit for Dolores, a green-thumbed cat owner who has a talent for beekeeping. Still, Dolores believes that NHS offers valuable resources to anyone in need of financial assistance. She states, “I have given information to numerous friends and relatives about Neighborhood Housing Services and their classes and their loan programs, and the Land Trust in particular. If somebody needs help with their finances, when people are tired of renting and want to buy a house, I always recommend Neighborhood Housing Services.”