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Last month, we discussed the impact stable homeownership has on children's health and wellbeing. But, it’s not just the physical health that’s impacted – a child’s social development and education are linked to his or her housing situation.

Consider this scenario – a grade-school aged child lives in low-income rental housing. Though his home has two parents who are invested in his well being, he is subjected to frequent moving as his parents struggle to find a renting situation that is safe and stable. Each move changes his school zoning, and puts him in a new classroom with a new teacher, sometimes in the middle of an academic year. Progress tracking is inconsistent, teachers can’t identify challenges and he fails to meet educational milestones as a result. This scenario doesn’t even begin to touch the implications of social development that occur when children are forced to frequently abandon and make new friends.

Statistically, children in under-resourced communities lag behind their peers in standardized tests. There are a few causes that shape this trend: residential instability, absenteeism and comparatively worse schools. Homeownership can have a positive impact in each of these areas.

Homeowners stay put. A study by National Association of Home Builders shows that the average homeowner lives in their house for 13 years. Coincidentally, that’s the length of time a typical US child spends in the public school system. Residential stability allows students to progress through schools where teachers and administrators know them and are invested in their education. They also keep a similar group of peers, spurring strong social development during crucial formative years.

Health and homeownership are linked in children. If you haven’t already, read our recent blog post on homeownership impact on health in children. Absenteeism can be greatly reduced if students are healthy and able to go to school.

Homeowners invest in their neighborhood, including schools. When it comes time to vote and pay taxes, homeowners contribute to the health and success of their local schools. Homeowners are twice as likely to vote, and electing local representatives who are dedicated to your schools can have a positive impact on school funding and opportunities.

Purchasing a home undoubtedly positively impacts the buyer, but what about the other family members living in the home? Fortunately, they reap the benefits, too! At United Housing, our mission is to make that improved well-being possible for the underserved families who may not realize homeownership is within reach. We strive to provide quality, affordable housing opportunities in an impoverished city that boasts more substandard rental units than owner-occupied homes, according to American Housing Survey.

Parents have a lot on their plates - kids, work, their own parents, bills and more. All these important things that they are responsible for can lead to quite a bit of worry. Owning a home offers a safe place to land amid the chaos of life and can serve as a solution to many of these issues. For example, did you know homeowners are known to experience higher levels of life satisfaction, self-esteem and perceived control over life? The positivity that stems from these areas is contagious and can create a happier, more stable environment for everyone involved.

The condition of the home matters as well. Because homeowners are economically invested in the property they inhabit, they are more likely to maintain their living space at a higher level. As a result, all family members living in the home experience a cleaner, higher-quality environment. Those in houses of poor quality are more likely to be exposed to harmful conditions and overcrowding, both of which can result in negative health effects. Realtor University’s report highlights a significant correlation between poor housing and health problems, especially respiratory conditions such as asthma, injury and exposure to toxic substances like mold, which can cause a variety of respiratory issues. These effects are heightened in Memphis, where energy burdens are among the top five highest in the country.

The benefits don’t stop there.

And, a recent study put out by Children’s Health Watch noted that the medical expenses accumulated by children living in unstable housing contributed $8 billion in avoidable health care and education costs in 2016. That’s a burden we all feel. Furthermore, over the next ten years, researchers project health and education costs to rise to $111 billion!

It’s crucial for United Housing to let families living in renter-occupied dwellings know that homeownership may not be easy, but it is possible and there are organizations out there to help them make it happen through financial education and credit counseling. To put it simply, preparing Mid-South residents to become homebuyers is the heart of everything we do. Purchasing a home is not just a luxury - it’s an important benefit to many aspects of life. The ripple effects of homeownership extend beyond the house, creating stable, healthy environments.

Becoming a homebuyer isn't easy. United Housing can help.

You learn a lot of things in grade school. The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. A rhombus is a quadrilateral with four sides, two obtuse angles and two oblique angles. Simple enough! While we’re able to recite a line of Shakespeare, many of us leave middle school, high school and even college without an idea of where to start the homebuying process.

What’s even worse is that, without guidance, many people jump into the process uninformed. They overextend themselves financially, become a victim of predatory lending, choose a home that doesn’t fit the long-term needs of their family, or settle on a home just because they feel like buying a home is the “right” thing to do.

So, how should you start the process? First, start with resources like those found on THDA’s website. THDA provides you with information about down payment assistance, loan options and homebuyer education course information. By reviewing these materials, you could learn about available resources that make homeownership possible or more attainable for your family.

Once you’ve learned about your options, enroll in a homebuyer education course, like those offered by United Housing. In these classes, you’ll learn about more than just the homebuying process. You’ll learn how to budget for a mortgage while building up your savings, how to improve your credit score, why homeownership matters, how to maintain your home, and so much more. Plus, you’ll learn from a well-educated teacher who can answer any of your questions (we know you have a ton!).

From there, you’ll be ready to meet with reputable community lenders and shop for mortgages. Your HBE teacher may even connect you with a few trustworthy agencies. You’ll need to review a few mortgages before deciding which lender is right for you, as the amount for which you are approved and interest rates will likely vary. This will give you a clear price range, which is essential before you start looking at homes.

Now, here comes the fun part! You’ve chosen a lender and have a clear budget, it’s time to connect with a licensed realtor. Your HBE instructor will likely have a few recommendations. Talk with your real estate agent about what you need and want (there is a difference!) in a home, what neighborhoods you want to consider and set clear boundaries on your budget. Then, let the tours begin!

Hopefully, by the end of this process, you’ll be able to look back on this from the comfort of your new living room! But, to get started, you need to connect with organizations like THDA and United Housing, who will provide you with in-depth information and guide you through the process. Connect with us through the links above today!

Memphis has recently received accolades such as Best Place in the World to Visit in May by CNN Travel and was ranked 23rd on Indeed’s Best Cities for Job Seekers in 2018. These honors have allowed the Bluff City to gain attention on a national scale, which is a good thing. Right? It increases visibility, which increases tourism. Visitors fall in love with our great city, and more and more people are moving here. You get the point! But, there’s a catch.

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As a result, houses and apartment complexes are popping up all over Memphis to accommodate the influx of new residents to the city. And, homes in the city’s core are selling almost as soon as they’re put on the market. These homes, however, aren’t always affordable. High-traffic areas, like Downtown, have list prices that are above the price range for your average Memphian. Memphis isn’t the only city struggling with affordable housing. NPR reported that an estimated 11 million Americans pay more than half their income towards rent, and according to Zillow, more people are renting now than ever before.

money sign.pngA 2015 report conducted by the Tennessee Housing Development Agency found that the median income for Memphians is $36,445. This is 19.4 percent lower than the state average of $45,219. And, according to research from the University of Memphis, the Bluff City has a poverty rate of 26.9 percent. Using a lower budget to illustrate the reality of many Memphians’ financial situations, if you were following a three-to-one income-to-rent ratio and made $1,500 a month, you would have an estimated $500 to spend on rent. That leaves only $1,000 to cover utilities, groceries, transportation, health care, and the list goes on and on -- clearly a tight budget for a single family.

According to Zillow, the median rent price in Memphis is $890 per month, lower than the Tennessee median of $1,275. Why are the prices lower? It’s because Memphians make a median salary of $36,445 compared to the state of Tennessee as a whole, which makes $44,297. Lower salaries call for lower rent, but the median salary isn’t even able to afford the median rent price!

The problem not only lies in the lack of affordable housing but in the failure to educate soon-to-be renters and buyers about options for financial assistance. More often than not, people believe that owning a home is impossible in their current position. United Housing’s education programs exist to help Mid-Southerners better understand homeownership, mortgage loans, the risks of predatory lending, foreclosure procedures and more. For complete details on the classes United Housing offers, click here.

NEW FUNDER SPOTLIGHT: THOMAS W. BRIGGS FOUNDATION
In an age before Google, the Welcome Wagon must have been an encouraging sight. For those who have heard of the "Welcome Wagon," the work of the company behind new United Housing funder, the Thomas W. Briggs Foundation, might already be familiar.

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