With the investment and support of the Oregon IDA Initiative, the Portland Housing Center and other non-profits and institutions, Guadalupe and Antonio Avila-Guzman and their family have finally achieved their dream of owning a home and putting down roots in North Portland’s Portsmouth neighborhood.
In addition to their own efforts, their story reflects the successful cooperation between several non-profits and public institutions that have supported them and other Oregonians to attain homeownership and create more stable and vibrant communities across Oregon.
Ever since the Avila-Guzman family came to the Portland, they have lived in North Portland’s Portsmouth neighborhood. Their older children went to Roosevelt High School, the family attends Santa Cruz (Holy Cross) Church in the neighborhood, and when their youngest Tanya was born almost four years ago, they were excited about her attending Cesar Chavez, their neighborhood school. They love close-by Columbia Park with its leafy canopy of mature elm trees and picnic and playground areas. North Portland also offers them convenient access to public transportation and their jobs.
While they loved the community, the three-bedroom apartment they had rented for six years was too small for the family as their four kids grew up. And worse yet, the apartment had serious repair problems which the landlord would not address. The mold and mildew was so bad it was making the family sick. They dreamed of owning their own home and settling in the community they had come to love.
But when Guadalupe and Antonio saw the costs of a down payment and the monthly mortgage, they became very discouraged.
Then the Avila-Guzmans heard about an upcoming meeting about homeownership opportunities in the neighborhood. They met representatives from the Portland Housing Center and Habitat for Humanity, and Guadalupe and Antonio learned there that they could afford a home. They also found out that they could leverage savings through an Individual Development Account (IDA) at the Portland Housing Center, one of the non-profit partners with the Oregon IDA Initiative. Itzel Spehar, the IDA Program Coordinator at the Portland Housing Center, said, “At one point, they could never have purchased a house, but when they learned they could earn match from the Oregon IDA program, they got really excited.”
After the meeting, Antonio and Guadalupe applied with Habitat for Humanity to buy one of their homes and with Portland Housing Center to start the matched savings program of the Oregon IDA Initiative. They were accepted by both organizations and were on the path to owning their own home.
They worked with Itzel and Imelda Ortiz at the Portland Housing Center for over two years. They took the financial education classes to devise a financial plan that would allow them to save. “We learned from the classes about budgeting,” reports Guadalupe, “and how to manage our money so at the end of the day we had some left over.” They made their first deposit on the day after Christmas in 2008 and saved for over two years.
“They had to work hard for this,” explains Itzel. “At one point, everyone in the family was working to set aside $50 or $100 for saving.” Portland Housing Center staff also counseled the Avila-Guzmans to improve their financial resume by establishing credit and strengthening their employment history.
Ultimately, the Avila-Guzmans were able to save over $2,000. The match from the Oregon IDA Initiative helped with their down payment and other closing costs.
In 2008, Habitat for Humanity partnered with Rivergate Community Church in the Portsmouth neighborhood to build homes adjacent to the church. The Rivergate Commons is now home to twelve townhouses, including one for the Avila-Guzman family.
As their home was being built, the Avila-Guzmans worked hard to meet Habitat’s requirement of putting in a minimum of 500 hours of volunteer work known as “sweat equity.” Many, many weekends and evenings were spent on various construction tasks like painting. “Everybody helped,” commented Antonio, “our nephews too.”
In the spring of 2012, their townhouse was ready and the Avila-Guzman family moved into their home at Rivergate Commons. Now they have room for everyone — Guadalupe and Antonio, Marco (26), Gilberto (24), Perla (15) and Tanya who turns 4 in October 2012. Their house is lovely and comfortable, but best of all it is a healthy home, free of mold and mildew. It is close to their church, and a good school for Tanya when it’s time for her to start kindergarten. It’s close by the park and access to their jobs.
They have a container garden growing in their shared back yard at the commons, full of fresh herbs like epazote and cilantro to spice their cooking, and recently, the Rivergate Community Church invited their new neighbors to put in vegetable gardens just a few yards from the shared back yard. Antonio beams with pride as he points out the huge variety of plants growing in the enormous garden. They have tomatillos, jalapeno peppers, squash, tomatoes, potatoes and corn. For the Avila-Guzmans, there is no place like home!