When Neva and Robert Gaines recently moved into their home in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood, it was a milestone not only for the couple, but also Milwaukee nonprofit organization ACTS Housing.
[caption id="attachment_368999" align="alignright" width="371"] Andrew Steinhafel gives Neva Gaines a gift card to help furnish her new Sherman Park home. (Photo: ACTS Housing)[/caption]
With the Gaines’ home purchase, 2,500 homeowners have successfully completed the ACTS program, which provides financial counseling, real estate brokerage, rehab expertise and rehab loans to allow low income families to viably purchase a home. This week, the nonprofit real estate brokerage firm celebrated the Gaines family’s new home and the organization's milestone. The Gaines closed on their house in October, following a year-long process of working with ACTS. The family was previously renting a nearby property that was in poor condition. A back surgery has also left Robert with a disability that made their renting experience untenable. “I said, ‘We need to get out of here, I can’t take it anymore,’” Neva Gaines said. “And I decided to take the plunge.” Over the past year, the couple worked to reduce their credit and save for the $5,000 closing cost. Through ACTS, homebuyers can opt to purchase through a bank or purchase a fixer-upper foreclosed home through the city.The Gaines looked at about 15 homes in the neighborhood, but ultimately landed on their move-in ready home on North 36th Street, a three-bedroom house that features French doors, a built-in fireplace and stucco walls. “I said this is it,” Neva said. “That would be hard to replicate.”This year, ACTS is on track to help 130 families. Next year, the organization expects to increase its capacity to 175 families. Michael Gosman, executive director of ACTS, said the program is tailored to help each individual family on its road to homeownership. “It begins with one family that desires homeownership," Gosman said. “And each family’s path is going to be a little different but we pride ourselves on offering all the services a family needs to transition from renter to owner. For some families, that’s a really quick process. For others, it takes years. But it’s all about helping them achieve what they want to achieve, given the resources they have.”The Gaines’ home is the 25th house in the Sherman Park neighborhood to be purchased by new homeowners with ACTS’ assistance over the past five years.“You can’t step into this living room and not get this warm feeling of wow, this is where this family is supposed to be,” Gosman said. “And how great for the block and neighborhood that the Gaines family has a stake here."Gosman said, the cumulative effect of increased homeownership within a neighborhood is better for the city. The homeowners who have gone through the ACTS program have invested an estimated $138 million into their homes, he said.“We’re just one piece in that,” he said. “This neighborhood would have a lot of strength without us, but we think the 2,500 homeowners we’ve added to the city are having a profound impact at the block and neighborhood level in making Milwaukee a better place for all of us.” Steinhafels, a supporter of the ACTS, also provided the Gaines with a gift certificate to help furnish their home. “The work ACTS does and the work the homeowners put into their new home, it’s a really holistic program and it’s pretty incredible,” said Andrew Steinhafel, director of IT for Steinhafels. “We’re just happy to support it.”