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Acts Housing, a nonprofit which makes home ownership possible for families with income, credit, language, and other barriers, has seen a dramatic increase in homeownership interest during the COVID-19 crisis. With the launch of online orientations, virtual one on one counseling and homebuyer education, Acts has attracted a record number of participants.
“While our response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been evolving in real time, we have found safe and innovative ways to continue serving families that traditionally have been locked out of the homeownership market,” said Acts Housing President & CEO Michael Gosman. “During this time of great stress and uncertainty we have seen some amazing bright spots. Families are still closing and moving into homes. More than two dozen rehabs continue. And, we’re reaching a broader number of renters looking to transition to homeowners.”
In April, 272 individuals participated in Acts’ newly launched online English and Spanish orientation sessions compared to the monthly average of 80 who participated in 2019. The number of individuals who participated in one on one counseling sessions increased to 183. And, the nonprofit also saw more than a doubling of participants in its new online home buyer education program that launched in January.
Gosman believes the increased interest is primarily due to renters confined in close quarters during the Safer-at-Home Order that want to create a brighter and more spacious future. “It’s caused people to look inward, to think about their own families, their own homes, and the importance home has and to build that for a better future.”
The only nonprofit of its kind in the US, Acts provides one-stop-shop support to prospective homeowners including financial and homebuyer counseling, real estate brokerage, rehab counseling, loans and grants, and post-closing services. In 2019, the nonprofit helped 183 families become homeowners. Since its inception in 1995, Acts families have purchased over 2,600 homes and reclaimed nearly 900 foreclosed properties.
Acts is also working closely with alumni families who have experienced a disruption in income to help them maintain their homes through the present crisis. Historically, only 6 percent of Acts alumni have experienced a foreclosure (a 94 percent success rate). The low-to-moderate income families Acts serves frequently save hundreds of dollars per month as compared to renting. This partially explains the historical success as well as why only 1 out of 100 Acts Lending borrowers was delinquent on their March mortgage payment.
“We do not want even one of our alumni to lose a home because of this pandemic. We are here to assist our Acts alumni families to help them navigate this challenging period,” Gosman said. “As an organization, we will come out of this better and stronger as we permanently adopt technology and processes that have gotten us through the past month. We are solidly positioned to provide increasing quality and quantity of support to renters who dream of becoming homeowners in Milwaukee and Beloit.
Acts Housing has not had to lay off or furlough any employees and continues to hire and build their team.