The Gresham community is stronger because of the Oregon IDA Initiative’s investment in resident Natalie Mitchell. Natalie’s hard work and the support of the Oregon IDA Initiative through the NAYA Family Center combined to make her a homeowner in July of 2012. She is the proud owner of a home developed by Proud Ground, the metro area’s community land trust.
Natalie has 30 years of roots in Gresham. She is a graduate of Centennial High School and Mt. Hood Community College and active in civic improvement organizations. Natalie’s three sons, Owen, (16), Randon, (15), and Jeremiah, (12) really enjoy living in a house that has space for all of them and room to spread out.
Natalie worked hard, but a lot of others helped her reach her goal. She worked with the team at the NAYA Family Center to develop and maintain the skills and discipline she needed to achieve her goal. Sharon’s homebuyer education class, Ben’s financial wellness classes, and support and follow up from Jen, Sara, Laina and Loretta all helped keep Natalie on track.
Early on, the staff at NAYA Family Center connected Natalie with Katie Ulrich at Proud Ground. Katie worked extensively with Natalie to put the deal together. She helped Natalie find a lender who was familiar and comfortable with the land trust model, Joseph Portillo at Umpqua Bank.
“Katie helps you navigate because it is such a detailed process – a community land trust process. You are entering into a very legal process. It’s not like a grant or a scholarship where they say here’s your money, carry on and live a great life. No, it’s [that] we now own this thing together — and not a lot of people understand the ins and outs of that. She was always able to break it down.” Natalie is appreciative of Katie’s expertise, “She never missed a beat on what next thing was going to be coming up or needed, she was on it.”
One important feature to Natalie about her new home is that when and if she chooses to buy a different home, this one will be affordable for another first-time homebuyer. Natalie comments, “It’s great, and we need it, especially in East County.”
On May 1, 2012, Natalie took the opportunity to engage in her community by testifying before the Gresham City Council. She spoke in support of programs to benefit future homeowners, and said “I’m thankful to have the opportunity that otherwise would have taken much, much longer. As a single mother, I put myself through college. It took 10 years to achieve my goal of earning a master’s degree in social work with a focus on community engagement. The financial pressures of raising my family and attending college and always having two to three part time jobs meant that I wasn’t able to put money aside for the purchase of a home… Thanks to the financial education with the NAYA Family Center and the Proud Ground Home Buyer Initiated Grant, I was able to choose a home that I desired, a home of my choice in Gresham, which is going to make a strong, stable foundation for my children as they continue to be Gresham residents in the community.”
Natalie has now become an example for others who want to attain homeownership. The staff at NAYA Family Center are very proud of all Natalie has been able to accomplish, and are excited for more families to be able to achieve their dreams of homeownership through the Oregon IDA Initiative and their partnership with Proud Ground. Laina Green says “People are hearing about and reading about what [Natalie has] accomplished…they say, ‘hey, that could be me in a year’s time.’” In fact, Laina has another IDA Initiative participant who is a little ways along in her savings, and is inspired by Natalie. She said “You’re going to be telling my success story soon!” to which Laina says, “Yes, I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops.”