Dort Federal Credit Union Gives Away Homes for the Holidays
The American Dream has been a dynamic idea. The phrase was first coined by author James Truslow Adams in his 1931 book “The Epic of America.” Adams saw the American Dream as a society where every man or woman could attain their fullest stature, regardless of circumstance or birth order. Over the years, it has come to be represented by owning a home and property – a piece of America.
The foreclosure crisis and credit crunch have made owning a home much more difficult. It was a central theme in the 2008 presidential election, with each candidate assuring they could make the American Dream attainable again. Even with interest rates lower, however, many neighborhoods are seeing few houses selling; something that was noticed by Dort FCU (FL) in Flint. With unemployment approaching 10 percent in the home of General Motors, Dort FCU had a novel idea – give away two houses.
“Dort Federal Credit Union’s board of directors is very community focused,” said Jenny Ludwigsen, Dort FCU director of marketing. “They are always looking for ways that the credit union can give back. We are very dedicated to the credit union philosophy of ‘People Helping People’.”
The houses are “Other Real Estate Owned” (OREO) properties Dort FCU has on the books through foreclosure, located in Flint and Davison. The Flint home is an 1,800 square foot ranch and the Davison home is a 1,000 square foot two-bedroom home that Dort FCU converted to a three-bedroom. Each has been renovated and brought up to code with upgrades. The total budget for the project was $300,000.
To be eligible for the giveaway, members and non-members were required to fill out an application, which included an essay on why they should be given the home. The essay question asks about the family’s current situation, and how having a mortgage-free home would change things for them. They also must meet income requirements of making more than $17,000 and less than $37,000 for a family of up to seven, and sign a forgivable mortgage to ensure they live in the home.
“The forgivable mortgage ensures that those who receive the home will live in it, and not sell it for profit before January of 2013,” Ludwigsen said. “If the winner does sell the home in 2009, Dort gets 100 percent of the sale. The percentage drops each year until January of 2013, when the forgivable mortgage is cancelled. We want the winners to live in the home and not look at it as a quick investment.”
The two winners will also need to meet a handful of other requirements, including not currently owning a home, not filed for bankruptcy in the past three years and have a steady income to meet upkeep and property tax requirements. A panel made up of seven non-profit partners picked the winners in December. The non-profit partners are the Shelter of Flint; Salvation Army of Genesee County; United Way of Genesee County; Food Bank of Eastern Michigan; Old News Boys of Flint; Habitat for Humanity of Genesee County; and Whaley Children’s Center. The credit union itself does not have a say in who obtained the houses.
“We went into this project thinking that we were going to change the course for two families. About three weeks ago, we realized that it’s not just about the end result for the awardees,” Ludwigsen said. “We’ve lit a spark in this community, and that’s meaningful on so many levels. Our area has been the symbol of tough times for the last three years so – maybe more. Having something positive here, something that represents the good things to come for us is just what this community needed. We’re excited and thrilled for the families that received the homes, but we’re equally excited for our community to have a positive story to share.”
The two homes were to be given away the week of Dec. 22. The winners will receive coverage in Michigan Monitor, which can be viewed at www.mcul.org.