The buzz started early Saturday afternoon as current and potential homeowners streamed into the exhibit hall at All Souls Church in Northwest DC. After weeks of anticipation, the 1st Annual Homeownership Townhall was finally underway!
Participants spent their first hour perusing the exhibits set up by more than a dozen District-area non-profit developers and counselors, government agencies, developers, lenders, realtors and security system companies. The hall was filled with cheerful voices as over 120 people in attendance moved from table to table learning about DC homeownership programs, property maintenance, how to improve their credit score, and more. Children squeezed in and out of the crowd, giggling, until they were herded downstairs to childcare.
As the crowd moved into the hall for the main portion of the event, they were greeted by the sultry sounds of Robert Ax Adams’ jazz guitar. His mix of oldies and original pieces gave the gathering a positive groove and set the stage for the afternoon’s speakers.
Among the stellar lineup were several speakers with first-hand knowledge of what it takes to navigate the District’s real estate market and assistance loan programs for first-time homebuyers. Stanley Augustin, who has a longtime connection to MANNA’s work, shared how important the Homeowners Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) was for him as he looked to buy a first home for a growing family, purchasing the home that his household has been renting from the current landlord. Eusabia Diaz spoke powerfully in Spanish (and with translation) about how her move from renting to owning a property developed on land formerly owned by the District had increased her confidence and peace of mind.
“Now I pay a similar amount to what I paid before,” said Diaz, “but I am the owner of my home. My old apartment is now renting for double what I was paying.”
Councilmembers Anita Bonds and Brianne Nadeau also addressed the crowd, speaking about their work for the Committee on Housing and Community Development, which Councilmember Bonds chairs. Through their hard work, and with the support of organization like MANNA and CNHED, the maximum HPAP award is increasing from $50,000 to $80,000, and Mayor Bowser is increasing the HPAP budget by $6 million, the first increase in almost 10 years.
Councilmember Nadeau also reflected on her personal experiences with homeownership, acknowledging that she would not be able to buy her own house at its current value without HPAP.
As the central piece of the event wrapped up, participants headed downstairs to join workshops on credit building, home maintenance/energy efficiency, and advocacy.
In the advocacy workshop, a lively group of participants learned from CNHED’s Director of Housing Advocacy Elizabeth Falcon about the members of the DC City Council, their respective roles, and the city budget cycle. Falcon also spoke about the successes that the Housing for All campaign has seen over the past five years and encouraged townhall attendees to become more involved in the campaign.
As participants regrouped in the main hall for a door prize raffle and closing statements, MANNA’s Housing Advocacy Team (HAT) members, the main orchestrators of the event, passed smiles and thumbs-up between each other. One thing was clear: the 1st Annual Homeownership Townhall had been a great success.
If you’d like to connect to affordable homeownership advocacy and next year’s town hall, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org