Fair helps Lents renters become homeowners

Discover how this dedicated group of organizations is helping to revitalize the Lents Neighborhood, by dramatically increasing the number of homeowners seeded into their community‚

Amie Diffenauer, ROSE CDC, and Deborah Johnson, Host Development, talk with Angela Wilkinson‚ who says she’s interested in buying a home in Lents.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Business, community organizations and government agencies aren’t just hoping the Lents Neighborhood will improve. They’re taking action.

One of their projects was putting on a “Home Buying Fair” not long ago. By the time we’d arrived, families were streaming into Kelly Elementary School where the fair was set up.

Mipzia Menjivar checking folks in at the Lents Homeownership Fair.

“Welcome to our second fair,” Amie Diffenauer, Community Organizer for the Lents Homeowner Initiative at Lents Community Development greeted us. “People come here who are interested in purchasing homes.”

The fair, she explained, is geared to lower-to-moderate income families, and those considering buying their own home for the first time.

“Many people in our community don’t realize they have the opportunity to purchase a home,” continued Diffenauer. “At this event, we encourage homeownership as a possibility‚ even if it may be several years out. We show them how to start planning now, by improving their credit, building up some savings, and learning how to apply for loans.”

Kristin Breen, Washington Mutual, encourages Shannon Milliman‚ who tells us, “We’re exploring buying a home. Having a plot of land of your own, a garden, draws a family together. We’re working toward it; this fair is really helping.”

Homeowners make better neighbors
People who are homeowners, she said, tend to be more “invested” in their neighborhoods‚ and more than just financially. They take better care of their home and yard, and care about what is happening around them‚ in their street, and in their community.

“We have helped 130 families become homeowners in two years,” Diffenauer enthused. “Our goal is 120 more new homeowners in the next two years. We’re working to build a stronger community, encouraging people to buy homes.”

Provides education, connections and food
The nearly 100 potential new homeowners who attended talked with many of the 23 home buying vendors‚ such as real estate agents, banks, and other lenders‚ and twelve community organizations and government agencies were also at the fair.

In addition the meeting the exhibitors, attendees took home-buying workshops that were available in English, Vietnamese, Russian, and Spanish.

At the Northwest Natural Gas cook trailer, grilling up great fajitas are volunteer Darrell Thiessen and chef Buzz Busse. “We’re NW Natural. We’re giving folks something good to eat ‚Äì and showing them that gas is the best way to cook.”

And, the lunch cooked up by the Northwest Natural Gas team was indeed superb. Freshly grilled chicken fajitas, with all the trimmings, were mouthwateringly delicious.

“We’re happy with the diverse turnout and the enthusiasm of the attendees to learn about homeownership,” said Diffenauer.

About 100 families came to the fair and learned how they can become homeowners in Lents.

We ran into Nick Sauvie, executive director for ROSE Community Development, the driving force in this homeownership campaign at the event.

He looked pleased as he summarized what he saw, saying “This has been a great partnership among realtors, banks, and other companies who are helping people buy a home in Lents. It’s great for the homebuyers, and good for the community. There are good things ahead in Lents.”

Learn more at the work of this organization by visiting  www.rosecdc.org.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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