TYNGSBORO – Carlos and Brenda Santiago-Melendez will be able to host family members for the vacation for the first time this year with help from the Massachusetts Housing Partnership.
The couple recently moved from a tiny apartment in Lowell to a 1,395 square foot townhouse in Tyngsboro, which they purchased after participating in Housing Partnership’s One Mortgage program. Brenda Santiago-Melendez heard about the program from a colleague at Walmart, where she works as a repairman.
“We’re so thrilled, it’s amazing. We didn’t think we could have a house, to tell you the truth, because the prices were so expensive, ”said Carlos Santiago-Melendez, who works at Home Depot. “Finally, we can bring our family and enjoy our Christmas and New Years celebrations with us in one place. “
The program was started in 1990 as a way to combat racial discrimination in mortgage lending. First-time homebuyers sign up for the program and attend classes on the buying process, and the Housing Partnership helps them apply for a low-interest, fixed-interest mortgage with as little as 3% down. deposit. More than 40 banks are participating in the program, including Citizens Bank, where the couple secured their 30-year mortgage.
“I took the classes with my wife and they opened our eyes to a lot of things. It’s not what everyone thought. There are opportunities there, ”said Santiago-Melendez. “We felt, wow, it’s not as hard as I thought it would be.”
After taking the course, the couple entered an affordable housing lottery for a condo and, within months, had won a spot. They moved in on March 1.
Rus Lodi, director of public affairs for the Housing Partnership, explained that in addition to counseling and a low-cost mortgage, participants don’t have to worry about private mortgage insurance because the state subsidizes the mortgage. cost. Qualifying buyers may also be eligible for reduced mortgage payments during the early years of their residence.
“We didn’t want people to go above and beyond. We wanted them to stay at home for the long term, ”Lodi said. “If we gave them a little help in the first few years, they would make regular payments and could afford a home repair. When they earn more income, then they can afford the payments. “
Lodi added that since its inception, the One Mortgage program has helped more than 23,000 low to moderate income families obtain mortgages, more than half of whom are people of color.
Massachusetts has the 48th lowest homeownership rate for black households in the country, and homeownership rates for households of color are 40% higher overall, according to the Housing Partnership. of the country than in Massachusetts.
“The events of the past few years have really reiterated the need for the mortgage world to address its performance for people of color,” Lodi said. “This program was created for a while and unfortunately that moment is still here, so our program is more relevant than ever.”
Santiago-Melendez said he and his wife had already encouraged several friends and family to sign up for the program. Currently, Brenda’s sister, Liza Cruz, and her husband, Hugo, are staying in the spare bedroom of their new home, and the Cruzes are also considering buying a home with help from the Housing Partnership.
When Carlos and Brenda Santiago-Melendez first arrived in Massachusetts from their native Puerto Rico, they stayed with the Cruze in their Billerica apartment for about a year, and now they can return the favor.
For now, the Santiago-Melendez are enjoying their new home, for which they pay less each month than in their Lowell apartment. They have more space, including the extra bedroom, loft, garage, and laundry room, and they plan to welcome Brenda’s extended family over the New Years.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” said Carlos Santiago-Melendez.