Newberry homeowners 35 and 36: Angela and Arlisha

March 15th, 2021
Angela Smith at her Newberry home after closing on it

Later this month, Angela Smith will be celebrating a milestone birthday. Her 50th. Her present to herself is a dream come true. She has become a homeowner.

“The older I got, the more I thought that homeownership was not possible for me, but then this opportunity came along, and I am excited to take advantage of it, even though I’m still a little nervous,” Angela said.

Angela is the 35th person to become a new homeowner through Southwest Solutions’ Newberry program. Newberry is an 8-block area in the Chadsey Condon neighborhood in southwest Detroit. Here, Southwest Solutions acquired 60 single-family homes that were rental properties to transition them all to affordable homeownership. Current renters have priority to become homeowners.

Angela and her 4 kids had been renting the house she’s in for seven years before closing on it. The purchase price was $62,000. Because she had been renting the house, Angela was eligible was for up to $20,000 in downpayment assistance as a conditional grant, thanks to a generous donation from the Sam L. and Judith G. Yaker Fund to support the Newberry program. Angela’s monthly mortgage payments for the 15-year loan are about $522, with taxes and insurance included.

“This is big step for me, and it’s even bigger because I am low-income, but I hope it will inspire my children to take big steps in life, too,” Angela said. “My plan is to be in this home a long time, and then my children will inherit it. It’s a blessing to get this home and to live in a neighborhood that’s improving and where the property values are going up.”

Arlisha Thomas shows off her keys after closing on her Newberry home (below image) with the assistance of Todd Burk, who directs the home lending program at Southwest Solutions.

Homeownership is not the only major change that Angela has in mind as she moves forward. She is also planning a new career. For the past two decades, she has worked in adult foster care. She is now advancing her education through the State of Michigan’s “Futures for Frontliners” program, which allows frontline workers free access to a local community college to earn an associate degree or a skills certificate. Angela wants a degree so she can one day work with children in need.

Shortly after Angela closed on her Newberry home, Arlisha Thomas closed on hers. Arlisha bought a vacant home that Southwest Solutions has renovated, becoming the 36th Newberry homeowner.

Arlisha and her two kids had been renting a part of a two-family flat and were running out of room.

“I was looking for another place to rent that we could afford,” said Arlisha, who works as a machine operator at a factory. “I wanted to become a homeowner, but didn’t think it could happen this soon.”

Like Angela, Arlisha purchased her home for $62,000. But because she was not a previous Newberry renter, she was not eligible for the full downpayment assistance through the Yaker grant. Arlisha did receive some Yaker grant funds to help cover closing costs. Her monthly mortgage payments, with taxes and insurance rolled in, are about $650, which is comparable to the rent she’d been paying before.

“This is a beautiful home and I couldn’t be more excited, especially for my kids,’ Arlisha said. “I bought it for them, and it’s something I can leave for them.”

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