Lents Homeownership Initiative expands horizons into outer East Portland with expanded fair

Find out how this ROSE Community Development Corp. program is reaching out, to turn more renters into homeowners …

Greeting folks as they come to the LHI East Portland Homeownership Fair are ROSE Community Development’s Amie Diffenauer, and Christine Rhoney – SUN Site Manager at Kelly Elementary School.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When we arrived at the East Portland Homeownership Fair at Kelly Middle School on April 18, we asked co-organizer Christine Rhoney, the school’s SUN Site Manager, why they changed the name of the event from the Lents Homeownership Fair.

“This year, we’ve decided to expand into outer East Portland,” Rhoney explained. “We are encompassing all of our outer east Portland school districts, including David Douglas and Reynolds.”

Carlos Jimenez checks in guests at the front desk.

Because of this, Rhoney added, they’re already scouting for a new location for the 2010 fair. “Because we’re expanding east and north, we want to make the location next year a little more centrally located for all families in outer East Portland.”

In addition to expanding their reach, the fair has gotten bigger and better each year, Rhoney noted. “We’ve had more participants every single year. We have a lot more interpreters this year, and so we are able to connect families with an individual interpreter who will walk around the fair and assist them.”

Whether homeowners or renters, experts answer questions about homeownership.

Fair adds homeowner-oriented information
ROSE Community Development’s Amie Diffenauer, the director of the Lents Homeownership Initiative said they’ve added information of interest to those who are already homeowners.

“We’re a little surprised – and pleased – to see our workshop classes for homeowners filling up,” Diffenauer told us. “It’s as important to us to help struggling homeowners stay in their homes as it is to create new homeowners.”

Three of best-attended classes for homeowners included, “Homeownership Preservation; how to prevent foreclosure”; “Should I Re-finance?”; and, “Age-In-Place with a Reverse Mortgage”.

Neighbor Brian Johnson talks with Quyona Anderson about financing options.

Real estate bazaar offers answers
In addition to the classes, both prospective and current homeowners were able to talk with real estate experts, people who work at lending institutions, insurance specialists, and community service representatives. Here, they were able to get one-on-one help and get specific questions answered.

“I came here because I want to buy a new home,” said visitor Brian Johnson, as he talked with financial services advisor Quyona Anderson. “There’s a lot of good information here; it’s kind of overwhelming. But, I’m learning – and it looks like I could be buying a home this year.”

Johnson said he went to seminars on consumer credit and buying a first home. “I’m looking forward to having my own yard – and the tax advantages homeownership provides.”

Giving away Burgerville turkey club sandwiches are Matt Wright, manager of store #41 at SE 92nd Avenue and Powell Boulevard, and co-worker Christina Duplantis.

Event attracts 130 households
Even in this troubled economy, more than 500 folks came to the fair to learn, to ask questions – and to enjoy a free lunch provided by the sponsors.

“We were encouraged to see the attendance increase at the workshops and seminars,” Diffenauer reflected. “This year, there were 25 home-buying vendors, and 12 community organizations and government agencies at the fair. And, we couldn’t have done it without the help of our 51 volunteers.”

Beyond the numbers, what really makes it worthwhile, Diffenauer said, is when you see hope on the faces of potential homebuyers. Jack Schmidt, a visitor, summed it up nicely: “We want to put some roots down into the community. We’ve moved almost every year, trying to find the right place to live. We’re looking forward to putting down some roots here.”

Christine Rhoney and Amie Diffenauer flank the three finalists for the $4,000 Home Buyer’s Assistant Grant at this year’s fair. LHI photo

The fair was hosted by the Lents Homeownership Initiative partners: ROSE Community Development, and Kelly SUN Community School. (Impact Northwest’s SUN Community Schools are a collaboration of Multnomah County Department of Human Services, the City of Portland Parks and Recreation and Portland Public Schools.)

It’s not too late to learn more! For information about the Lents Homeownership Initiative, contact Amie Diffenauer at (503) 788-8052, x105, or see www.rosecdc.org.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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