Success Stories

Empowered by Home: From Section 8 Housing to First-Time Homeownership

Michael remembers the days of growing up in section 8 housing in Los Angeles and living on food stamps. His parents, both immigrants from Vietnam, worked hard to provide for their family of five and teach their children the power of perseverance.

As the eldest son, Michael became the first in his family to meet many milestones. While his parents did not have an elementary school education, Michael became the first in his family to go to school and attend college. He graduated from Stanford University in 2018 with a degree in mechanical engineering. Now, he is also the first in his family to own a home, thanks to the Empower Homebuyers SCC program.

“It was my family’s dream to own a home – to get out of the cycle of poverty,” says Michael. “This home helps me get out of the cycle and pass it down to future generations and help them get off on a better foot.”

Since graduation, Michael had been mindful to live like a student, even while working full-time as a mechanical engineer. He lived with roommates and ate meals at work, but soon realized that rent would become costly with inflation. Home ownership, however, would lock in a monthly price and help take care of retirement later down the line.

Michael first came upon the Empower Homebuyers program through a Google search. Growing up in section 8 housing, he recognized there was help available for first-time homebuyers like himself. The pandemic had thrown a wrench into his original plans, with home prices soaring and interest rates doubling. The Housing Trust first-time homebuyer staff diligently supported Michael as he navigated a six-month process to secure a loan.

“The Housing Trust team has been on my side,” says Michael. “They really want you to succeed and they have been helping with any questions I have. After I submit something, they send me an email or phone call or voicemail, just to make sure everything is on time and submitted. They were very helpful in that sense.”

“My financial situation was also unique,” he adds. “I’m in school studying remotely for a master’s degree; there were layoffs and job switching. Housing Trust and my lender were very understanding in piecing together how my financing looked – it was not robotic.”

The process was worth it! Michael landed a single family, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home near his work that includes a front yard and backyard. With an open concept living room and remodeled kitchen, he is excited to cook and have friends over for dinner or small gatherings. He also looks forward to being able to customize, renovate, and decorate with the help of his girlfriend and friends.

Michael recognizes that his new home means being more financially conscious and responsible, but he feels happier knowing that the place is his for the long term. He advises first-time homebuyers to take a chance and to not feel intimidated by the down payment or the process.

“The down payment assistance program makes homeownership possible,” shares Michael.

“I have seen a lot of my friends intimidated by the 20% down payment. This program helps you come in with a 3% down payment, and the people working with you are human as well. It’s doable and more doable than you believe.”

Interested first-time homebuyers can attend a free information session and learn more about  the Empower Homebuyers SCC program at