She’s ‘excited’ to be a homeowner

Published 8:38 am Friday, September 25, 2009

FRANKLIN–Five years ago, Karen Branche moved to Franklin from her native Richmond with only a set of summer clothes. Now, she’s a homeowner, thanks the Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

“It feels wonderful,” she said Tuesday, at a ribbon cutting ceremony at her home. “I’m so excited to be a homeowner here in Franklin.”

Branche and Emzine Abbott moved in to their newly purchased home on Bruce Street last month.

The two-story, three-bedroom home features a dishwasher, central heat and air conditioning and has two and a half bathrooms. Built in 2007, it’s the first newly constructed home the FRHA has built and sold.

In order to buy the home, Branche participated in the Homebuyer Club, a 15-month commitment designed to help club members become successful homeowners. Club members are learn about topics such as money management, credit, lending, insurance, and foreclosure prevention, according to Shawn Washington, the homeowner education program specialist at the Virginia Housing Development Authority.

“Ms. Branche’s successful transition to homeownership is a true testimony to others in the club,” Washington wrote in an e-mail. “Though she’s reached her goal, Ms. Branche continues to attend the club and serves as a motivator and mentor to others.”

Branche said that she was thankful to all of the FRHA staff members that helped her move from public housing to owning her own home.

“I had an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up. I just needed a little nudge,” she said, as she looked at the FRHA staff members that were assembled at the home for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “This is all my family here.”

“I turned down the Section 8 voucher,” Branche said. “I wanted to be a homeowner, so here I am.”

Branche, who works full-time, serves as the president of the FRHA resident council and serves on the authority’s grievance board. She also volunteers with various groups, including the Food bank.

“I encourage each and every one of my residents to take hold of any of these programs that we offer, life skills, the GED program, financial fitness and homeownership,” she said.

Councilwoman Raystine Johnson, who also serves on the FRHA Board of Commissioners, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony and said that she hopes others will follow in Branche’s footsteps.

“I’m very proud of her and I think she sets an example for others to follow,” she said.

While the FRHA doesn’t have any more homes for sale right now, there are still opportunities for people who would like to buy a home but need assistance.

“Financial assistance is available, not just for our properties, but for a property that you may see that you may be interested in,” said Deborah Rowe, the executive director of the FRHA. The authority is also working with the city’s office of Community Development to identify families that qualify to buy homes rehabilitated with recently awarded Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant funds.

Rowe said that the FRHA is also looking to implement the Section 8 homeownership program, which will allow Section 8 vouchers to be applied towards mortgages.

“If you’re interested in homeownership, even on Section 8, there is opportunity for you as well,” she said.

Anyone interested in the homeownership program or the Neighborhood Stabilization Program can contact Gwen Blue at the FRHA for more information at 569-7940.