By: Laura Jones, schoolteacher, Santa Clara Unified
I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase my first home through the Empower Homebuyers SCC program. I first heard about the program in November 2018 and I closed on my home in May 2019. As a third generation native Californian as well as a third generation 5th grade teacher in the Santa Clara Unified School District, I thought the idea of home ownership was always going to be out of reach and this was something that I wanted and was actively working towards doing.
I am fortunate enough to not have any student loans thanks to my wonderful family, I don’t have a car payment, I lived in the apartment complex owned by my school district with below market rent, I taught summer school every year, I rarely bought new things (I still have an iPhone 5), I never traveled and still the thought of buying a home seemed insurmountable. That is why I was thrilled to learn about Housing Trust and the Empower program.
Being a homeowner has changed almost every aspect of my life. I do have a much longer commute. It went from a 7 minute bike ride if I missed the light to 30 minutes if there is no traffic and when the washing machine stopped working, I couldn’t just call the management company to deal with it. However there have been a lot of great things as well. For the first time in my adult life I got to pick the color of the walls. I don’t have to worry about putting holes in the walls when I hang pictures and I get to openly own pets.
I began volunteering with Guide Dogs for the Blind in the summer of 2018. Pets were not permitted in the teacher apartments, but they agreed to let me have one on a temporary basis, for one or two days at a time as a puppy sitter with the organization. Puppy sitters are greatly needed as sometimes people go places that are not appropriate for the puppies to go, but the larger need right now are puppy raisers. When I moved into my home in June, I got my first Guide Dogs for the Blind puppy in training. His name was Pistachio and he was a 5 month old yellow lab. Being a Guide Dog was not his calling. He was what they call career changed and he is now living his best life with one of the other teachers at my school as a great pet named Brodie. Fandango came to me three days later. The hope is that he will return to the Guide Dogs campus in San Rafael in June or July and begin the next stage of training to become a Guide Dog and help a visually impaired person live more independently. Owning my own home made all of this possible.
I realize that I am in an unusual circumstance as a single teacher in my thirties who was able to purchase a home in the Bay Area. Many of my colleagues have spouses and partners who are engineers, so they have a larger household income than I do and many of them assume they will never be able to buy anything ever. After sharing my home buying experience, they have begun to change their thinking. Most of them do not qualify for the programs offered by the Housing Trust, but just knowing someone who was able to purchase a home has made them think it is now a possibility.
Like most things in life, home ownership and the ability to purchase a home is all about choices. It is great to know that there are organizations and programs that are designed to help people achieve these goals.
Empower Homebuyers SCC is the Measure A funded down payment assistance program created by the County of Santa Clara and Administered by Housing Trust. For more information visit housingtrustsv.org/empower