MAP helps Cherokees obtain homeownership
Cherokee Nation citizen Feather Smith-Trevino stands in front of her home she and her husband purchased through the CN’s Mortgage Assistance Program. The program provides funds to first-time homeowners to help them buy a house. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen Morgan Hogner and her husband stand in front of the home they built through the CN’s Mortgage Assistance Program. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Mortgage Assistance Program, located within Commerce Services, helps qualified Cherokees become first-time homeowners through homeownership preparation and down payment assistance.
“A house is a person’s biggest investment that they’re ever going to make in their life, basically. And it’s an appreciable asset, so it increases in value over time,” Commerce Services Executive Director Anna Knight said.
The MAP provides participants classes that educates them of the process of becoming a homeowner such as pre-qualifying for a non-predatory loan, having good credit, finding a realtor, finding a home and having the home inspected.
The program is income-based and funded through the Native American Housing and Self Determination Act program. To qualify, a participant must be a citizen of a federally recognized tribe, household income must not exceed 80 percent of the current National Median Household income, attend homebuyers education classes, not owe any outstanding delinquent debt to the CN and purchase a home in the CN jurisdiction.
The program recently underwent policy changes regarding the amount of assistance for which a participant is eligible, the housing price and the definition of a homebuyer.
Knight said prior to the changes, eligible participants received $20,000 in assistance and down payment. The new policy tiers the funds based on income, which enables MAP to help more people with a 3 percent down payment and closing cost.
The tier system, per the National Median Household income, states that 60 percent and below receive $20,000; 60.01 percent to 70 percent receive $15,000; and 70.01 percent up to the maximum of 80 percent income receive $10,000.
Prior maximum housing prices went up to $200,000. Now the limit is $150,000.
The definition of a homebuyer used to be a participant could not have owned a home in the past three years. Now participants must have never owned a home to be eligible.
Since the program’s 2008 inception, 1,707 participants have become homeowners such as CN citizen Feather Smith-Trevino.
Smith-Trevino and her husband entered the program in 2010, at a time when they rented an apartment but wanted something permanent.
“I never really like renting. I always felt like that I wanted to put our money towards something that was going to last longer. I wanted a house of our own,” she said.
Not knowing anything about homeownership, the couple was in the program for nearly a year before purchasing a home in July 2011.
“We knew that we wanted to be able to get a house that we were going to be happy in and be able to live,” Smith-Trevino said. “We’ve been in our house now for six years.”
CN citizen Morgan Hogner and her husband participated in MAP intending to build a home.
“The program has helped us tremendously with budgeting. It has also greatly expanded our knowledge of the processes of construction and financing a new home,” Hogner said.
Applying for MAP in 2014, Hogner said she and her husband attended the required homebuyers classes and monthly meetings with their counselor while planning their home’s construction by drawing up floor plans and getting necessary construction estimates.
“The process took a long time to complete for us due to the fact that we were doing our build in baby steps. We were trying to play it smart as to not overwhelm ourselves and get in over our heads,” Hogner said.
Hogner moved into her new home in August. She said the home was created to be “self-sufficient” meaning it is solar-powered, has well water, is designed to vent heat without an air conditioner to keep it cooler in the summer and has three layers of insulation to retain heat for the winter.
“We are very grateful for this program. We figured it would be years before we would be able to even start with construction on our own. We truly appreciate the tremendous love and support our family has given us throughout our journey,” Hogner said.
For more information, visit http://www.cherokee.org/sbac/Mortgage-Assistance-Program-MAP