Homeowner In Action
Three years ago, Ebony Chambers was renting a house with so many safety, code and livability issues that she feels no hesitation in calling her then-landlord a “slumlord.” Moisture and mold issues throughout the property were of greatest concern to Ebony, but even that wasn’t a strong enough motivator for her to consider other housing options. “The rent was cheap and I had a flexible arrangement with my landlord in terms of paying my rent.”
It wasn’t until a new property manager came on the scene that Ebony began reconsidering her living situation. “She was always raising my rent, but more concerning was that she would constantly drive past my house which made me very uncomfortable.” The harassment increased to include phone calls and e-mails to Ebony at her place of work that regularly threatened eviction, which would oftentimes reduce her to tears. Ebony says, “I should actually thank her because she was my motivation to get out of renting.”
Through a coworker, Ebony learned about Project:Reclaim, a contract for deed program offered through a partnership between the CLCLT, Urban Homeworks and Build Wealth MN. “I remember telling my coworker that I didn’t think I would qualify because I had bad credit, but she reassured me that the partners work with the homeowner on their credit and it gave me hope!” Two years later, Ebony now has a credit score that will allow her to refinance out of her contract for deed and into a conventional mortgage with a lower interest rate and monthly payment.
When asked how homeownership has changed her, Ebony responded “Those first two years I learned a lot about financing and budgeting…and my self-worth has gone from low-to-high.” Homeownership has also increased Ebony’s community involvement, both in her neighborhood and as a homeowner advocate for the CLCLT. “I recently joined the CLCLT Homeowner Committee and I also serve as a member of the CLCLT Board of Directors, and I’ll be attending the NeighborWorks America Community Leadership Initiative this fall. I’ve never done any of this type of thing before. I was never interested when I rented, but do you see how much more involved I am? And how many different directions I’m going in? I’m so much more motivated now.” Ebony is also seeing how stable housing is affecting her family in a positive way. “My 23-year old son just moved out into his own place, and he is working towards homeownership, too.”
Within her neighborhood, Ebony is a strong presence, often teaching kids passing through to not throw their trash on the ground and the street as they walk. Ebony is also working with her neighbors to make calls into the police regarding problem persons and/or properties in their neighborhood. “A couple of months ago, two guys got into a shootout in front of my house and ended up shooting out one my windows. I wasn’t home at the time, but my sister was watching my 10-month old son and as soon as she heard the gunshots she grabbed him and ran inside the house. I got home to see one of my son’s socks in the yard and police cruisers and tape. The police came immediately upon receiving the phone calls because my neighbors and I have become so much more involved with our street and calling the police when necessary.” The two men are now awaiting trial.
So what changes does Ebony want to see in the future? “Looking at how some of these families are living in North Minneapolis really bothers me. I think if more people are open to telling someone their story, and the listener hears the story, both parties may be more open to change. I also want to see more people held accountable for their actions. I don’t want to see people hanging out on corners selling drugs. I want to see people being more productive with their lives. I want to continue to help educate the kids – and sometimes adults – passing through my neighborhood on being aware and respectful of the area even if they don’t live there. My neighborhood is much cleaner and the children are more respectful. These are small changes right now, but these will be big changes eventually because these kids will educate others.”